One of the Illawarra's greatest Ironmen will be honoured when the annual Dean Mercer Dash is held in Thirroul next Sunday.
Thirroul Surf Life Saving Club will host the third running of the annual 5km board race on October 29, which is held in memory of the late Dean Mercer. Growing up in Thirroul, Mercer always showed great talent in surf lifesaving, becoming a professional Ironman at 15.
Mercer went on become a two-time Ironman national champion (1989 and 1995). He was also a five-time state champion and won the 1977 World Oceanman series.
Tragically, Mercer was killed when his car crashed through a fence on the Gold Coast after he suffered a cardiac arrest behind the wheel in 2017. However, his legacy continues to live on in the Australian - and particularly Illawarra - surf lifesaving community.
"It's very special to be able to honour him and we have a lot of the Mercer family come down for the event," Thirroul SLSC president John Dryden told the Mercury.
"Dean was a true legend of our club, him and his brother Darren too. Even to this day, Dean has inspired a lot of our nippers to be paddling. We have a lot of board paddlers. We've typically been a fairly strong, competitive club, and a lot of that was built off the Mercer brothers and their success."
The first Dean Mercer Dash was held in 2021, with Claire Spicknall and Jack Wilson emerging as the inaugural women's and men's winners. Spicknall returned to defend her title last year, while Jayden Beaumont was the men's champion.
One of Mercer's old competitive board serves as the event's trophy, with the winners' names etched onto it.
Jeff Wall, a world champion board paddler and a key organiser of the Dash, remembers watching Mercer train and compete from a tender age.
"Dean was a really lively bloke, there was never enough hours in the day for him to fit all of his training in," Wall said.
"It's great that we have this event because he obviously died young at 47. Even though he lived up in Queensland for a good part of 10 or 15 years, he was always from here."
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