30for30: Leon’s Story

To celebrate our 30th anniversary year, we are running stories about Capital’s past, present, and future. In our inaugural post, Juniors rower and Captain Leon Bi reflects on the difference Capital has made to him.

Splash. Gulp. Splash. My body ached as I ungracefully pushed myself through the water.

At age seven, I started swimming at a competitive swim club. Despite practicing hours every day, I made little progress. Each practice was a reminder that others, who started even earlier, were physically more developed and received extra encouragement from coaches. After three years of feeling insignificant and insecure, I quit.

At age twelve, my life changed when I joined Capital Rowing Club. I was a scrawny kid with a history of feeling inadequate. Yet the team welcomed me to be a part of something greater. Capital’s mission is to offer the sport of rowing to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and fitness levels. Although our team initially appeared to be a hodgepodge of students from across the DC area, we bonded closely. Our differences were vast, but on the water we were equals who believed in each other, striving to row together in perfect unison. Through Capital, I gained the confidence I needed to shape myself into the person I wanted to be.

Capital took me in and believed in me when I had little faith in myself. In crew, the team is only as strong as the weakest link. I started as the weakest link, but my team always encouraged me. Looking back as Captain now, I am grateful for the chance Capital took on me years ago and hope to inspire others to reimagine the way they see themselves.