The smiling faces of the late Dean Mercer and his brother Darren were on the front page of the Illawarra Mercury on Saturday, October 22, 1988.
The pair of champions were preparing for the Nutri-Grain Ironman Challenge at North Wollongong Beach, where Darren would lift the trophy and an 18-year-old Dean placed fifth. The pair had been involved in a car accident the night before the competition while returning from a competitor's briefing in Thirroul.
"We got a rub down and put it (the accident) aside for a while. Just didn't think about it," Darren said.
"We were lucky no one was seriously injured."
Dean produced a swim leg that former champion Ironman Gran Kenny described as the best he'd ever seen when Dean made up 200m on his rivals in the leading pack.
"I knew I had to catch up on the swim but I'm giving away too much on the run legs," said Dean.
Dean went on to win the Australian Open Ironman titles in 1989 and 1995.
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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.
His legacy continues to live on, with Thirroul Surf Life Saving Club hosting their annual Dean Mercer Dash in Thirroul on Sunday, October 29.
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.
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