Published August 21st, 2006 - 08:50 GMT

Two triathletes from the UAE will be competing with top athletes from countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East in the first ever Nations Challenge, as part of the 2006 Standard Chartered Ironman Korea, to be held on 27 August in Seogwipo City, Jeju Island, Korea.

Standard Chartered UAE, one of the world’s leading international banks, is sponsoring UAE based Lucinda Plowman and Fabrice Houzelle to represent the UAE in the event, which is known as the toughest day in sport, combining three sports: 3.8 km swim, 180.2 km bike ride and 42.195 km run.

An Art Teacher at the Dubai American Academy, Lucinda Plowman has been competing successfully in marathons and triathlons since 2005.  She came first in the open female section of the Dubai Duathlon in February and first in the Olympic Triathlon in Dubai this year.  In addition to these impressive achievements, Lucinda also won first place in both the Festival Olympic Triathlon in Oman and the Dead Sea Half Marathon in Jordan this year.

“My goal is to use my athletic ability to travel around the world, so being sponsored to participate in the 2006 Standard Chartered Ironman Korea challenge is a great thrill,” said Plowman.

“I like to inspire other athletes of all abilities to appreciate and develop their maximum potential in triathlon, especially in the Middle East, and I love to race with good sportsmanship and encourage others in their achievements.  Most of all, it’s to have fun!”

Based in Abu Dhabi, Fabrice Houzelle began training for triathlons only two years ago, prior to which he didn’t even know how to swim. He has now been a member of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club since 2005 and completed his first Ironman marathon in South Africa in May this year.

“My proudest achievement so far has been coming third in the Jebel Hafeet duathlon challenge in Al Ain. This race was just ten days before the Ironman competition in South Africa, and involved 10km by bike and a 4km run.  It was won by a professional German cyclist, so I think I did fairly well!”

Under the Nations Challenge, countries will be divided into 5 regions and athletes within the same region will compete against each other to be the region's top triathlete.  The top finishers in the male and female categories from among the regions will take home the Nations Challenge Cup.  Standard Chartered Bank is putting up an additional prize pool of US$30,000 specifically for the Nations Challenge.

"Both Lucinda and Fabrice have good track records in the UAE. This will be a great experience for them to compete with an international field, with some of the world's best athletes," said David Proctor, CEO Standard Chartered Bank UAE.

"The Nations Challenge will also be a good opportunity to introduce and popularise Ironman in countries where the triathlon is a new or developing sport particularly in Asia, Africa and Middle East.  This will also be a good way to recognise the best regional athletes while attracting the best triathletes to compete at the Standard Chartered Ironman Korea," he added.

The Standard Chartered Ironman Korea Triathlon is an annual event hosted by Seogwipo City and IMG (International Management Group) since 1991 and last year attracted over 1,200 competitors.  Endorsed by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), this event has 50 qualifying spots for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October.  Seogwipo City is among Korea's top tourist destinations with 4 million tourists visiting annually.  Mild weather all year round, beautiful natural environments, comfortable accommodation and well-equipped stadium facilities make this city the perfect place for setting up a training camp, a city where you can always enjoy sports and true relaxation at the same time.  The city hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

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