Mercer hits his straps for Gold

ONE of Australia's most respected swim coaches says ageless ironman Dean Mercer is working at the same intensity as Grant Hackett was at his peak, and will go into this weekend's Coolangatta Gold on the best possible footing.

Since moving to the Gold Coast, Mercer - who turns 40 on November 24 - has been training with Dennis Cotterell, who has trained many Olympians and took Hackett to two 1500-metre Olympic gold medals.

Cotterell's a hard man to impress, but Mercer has managed to achieve that.

During a training session a couple of weeks ago Cotterell led his entire squad in a round of applause for Mercer, something he can't remember ever happening before to someone outside the core squad.

“His output is absolutely as high as you can get,” Cotterell said.

“It's as tough an application to the task as anything Grant Hackett ever did.

“I'm an old school coach and I absolutely love the competitor who gives their all every time they step up - once the work button gets hit they don't hold back.

“I've seen enough people in my time to know who's got the foot to the floor and who's taking it off, and he's one of the very, very rare ones who can do that - in all my time I haven't seen many.”

“For sentiment alone you'd like to see him win on Sunday because he's never won it, but you can't rely on sentiment.”

Cotterell said everything will depend on the run.

“I can't see anyone being ahead of him when it comes to the start of the run - they might be beside him, but I just can't imagine anyone will head him 'til they start to run,” he said.

Mercer, who put retirement plans on hold for 12 months after coming fourth in last year's event, said he's feeling fantastic.

“It's been a wonderful preparation; I can't remember having a preparation for a major event like this ever before, so I'm certainly in a great place at the moment and looking forward to the race on the weekend,” he said.

Mercer said he doesn't care about the row brewing over race tactics, which has seen two-time winner Caine Eckstein threatened with disqualification over plans to use a pacesetter in the ski leg of the race.

“In fact I think it'd probably be better - it picks up the pace, increases intensity and makes for a faster race,” he said.

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