Aquil Abdullah (Woodrow Wilson High) has already made history as the first black to row for the U.S. Olympic team. Now he's just two races away from becoming the first to win a medal.
The Washington-born Abdullah and his double scull partner, Henry Nuzum, finished third in a five-team field to become one of two U.S. boats to advance to the semifinals; the other was the men's pair of Luke Walton and Russian-born Artour Samsonov.
Three other U.S. boats will have to race in repechages, or second-chance races, which now are scheduled for tomorrow unless expected stormy weather changes that. The other seven American boats are set to race their opening heats today.
Abdullah said being the first black on the Olympic team is great, but deflects comparisons to pioneers like Jackie Robinson. "I'm just a regular Joe who happened to try rowing and got lucky that it matched the talent I actually have," he said. "I understand I have a responsibility if I can help bring the sport to more people, but I never think about myself as anything special."
U.S. single sculler Jennifer Devine struggled to keep pace with two-time defending gold medalist Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus and will row in tomorrow's repechage.