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Triathlon Takes Center Stage on Sunday at Pan Ams -- August 9, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, August 9. OLD rivalries will be reawakened and new stars will be born when triathlon takes center stage at the 2003 Pan American Games on Aug. 10 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The race, which will be Olympic distance (1.5k swim, 40k bike, 10k run) and draft legal, will take place on a course between España Ave. and the Sans Souci beach.

Both the men and women's races will take place on Sunday. U.S. elite triathlete Hunter Kemper (Longwood, Fla.), who won the silver medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, will have a chance to go for gold against the 1999 champion, Gilberto Gonzalez of Valenzuela. However 1999 bronze medalist, Simon Whitfield of Canada, who went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Sydney, will not be Santo Domingo.

Both Kemper and Gonzalez also competed at the Olympics in Sydney. Kemper finished 17th and Gonzalez placed 37th.

Kemper goes into the 2003 Pan American Games as the No. 1-ranked man in the United States and No. 13 in the world. He recently finished second at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup race in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He has been a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. since 2000. He qualified for the Pan Am team by winning the Baker's Breakfast Cookie ITU International Triathlon on June 1 in Bellingham, Wash.

The U.S. men's team will also include Victor Plata (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) who is ranked fourth in the United States and 40th in the world, and Doug Friman (Tucson, Ariz.), ranked fifth in the United States and 41st in the world. Friman finished third at the 2003 ITU World Cup race in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He qualified for the team by finishing as the first American, third overall, as the Clermont (Fla.) ITU International Triathlon on May 4.

Plata was the alternate for the U.S. Olympic triathlon team in 2000. He qualified for the Pan Am team thanks to his finishes at both Bellingham and Clermont, combined with his world ranking.

Both Friman and Plata compete as part of the KINeSYS triathlon team, which is modeled on the U.S. Postal cycling team that supports Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

The international competition will include Canada's Brent McMahon, Paul Tichelar and Sean Bechtel and Mexico's Javier Rosas, Eligio Cervantes and José Luis Zepeda. The U.S. women's team will consist of Sheila Taormina (Livonia, Mich.), Becky Gibbs Lavelle (Cupertino, Calif.) and Julie Swail (Irvine, Calif.).

Taormina, a gold medalist in swimming at the 1996 Olympics, was on the 2000 Olympic triathlon team and finished sixth in Sydney. She has steadily improved since then and will go into the Pan Am Games ranked third in the world and in the United States. She made the team by winning the Clermont ITU International Triathlon on May 4.

Lavelle is another improving U.S. triathlete who is ranked 30th in the world and sixth in the United States. She made the Pan Am team by finishing third at the Baker's Breakfast Cookie ITU International Triathlon on June 1 in Bellingham, Wash.

Barb Lindquist, world No. 1, won that race, but chose not to accept a spot so she could compete at the ITU World Cup in New York City on the same day. Taormina was second, but had already qualified for the team. Swail, a silver-medal winner at the 2000 Olympics in women's water polo, is in her first year as an elite triathlete and has already worked her way into the top 125 in the rankings.

Triathletes must be ranked in the top 125 in order to qualify for the 2004 Olympics. Swail is ranked 96th in the world and 11th in the United States going into the Pan Am Games. She qualified for the team thanks to her finishes at the two trials races and her world ranking.

Jill Savege, who is ranked fourth in the world, will lead the Canadian team. She will be joined by Natasha Filliol and Gillian Moody. Brazil could also have a powerful women's team as there are three Brazilian women ranked in the world's top 20: Sandra Soldan (No. 7), Mariana Ohata (No. 18) and Carla Moreno (No. 20).