When Jordan Mercer arrives in Wollongong on Friday, the memories will come flooding back.
The memories from the formative years of her life spent in the ocean pools of Thirroul and Austinmer, the memories of various family reunions and visits to her grandparents.
The daughter of legend Darren Mercer, Jordan may have moved to Queensland with her family as a five-year-old, but she always views the Illawarra as home and she can't wait to race in Sunday's Iron Woman event in Bulli.
"There's something about the Illawarra that has a special place in my heart," Mercer said. "Whether it's those childhood memories or the family I have there, whenever I visit it feels like home.
"I'm so excited to get back this week. My beautiful grandparents still live in Thirroul, I have uncles and aunts and cousins spread from Thirroul to Wollongong, so it's a special place for me and I'm so excited to race."
Mercer's journey to Bulli has been longer than the trip south from Queensland.
The 25-year-old has battled a series of mental and physical demons throughout the past few years.
Mercer makes no secret about the struggles she's faced, the Noosa resident experiencing the sudden death of her uncle Dean in August 2017 as well as a number of serious foot injuries.
The most recent came in last summer's Ironwoman series, an injury Mercer feared was career ending.
Slowly, as the rehab progressed, she became more confident a return was possible. Earlier this month it became reality, when she contested the second round of the 2019-20 series.
It was a personal triumph Mercer hopes will drive her to even greater success in the ocean in the future.
"I've done some seriously hard work mentally and physically," Mercer said. "I made it through some tough obstacles to be in a position to race with confidence.
"I'm proud I made it to this point, there were definitely phases where I didn't think I was going to do it. I started to work hard on the ocean ski and it took me to incredible places with the rehab process.
"But a big part of me just missed the Ironwoman, I had unfinished business. This series is the best challenge we could find within the sport and to be back there with the best in the world is something I'm proud of."
With Sunday's round just Mercer's second since returning from injury, the athlete is simply hoping to improve on her Burleigh performance in front of her friends and family.
But moving forward, Mercer has big plans both in and out of the ocean, with an Ironwoman series victory high on the list.
"Two weeks ago I proved my foot can hold up to Ironwoman races, now I'm just planning to build throughout the season.
"Winning next year's series is definitely within my sights, but I also have some other goals that excite me. Whatever happens, I know I'm progressing. It's not about getting back to the old Jordan, it's about this new and improved Jordan and I can't wait to put it into action."
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