Record numbers to honour Mercer at Cooly Gold
With a record number of competitors set to line up on Saturday and Sunday, it's looking like a promising year for Coolangatta's most gruelling fitness challenge.
Past stars of the Coates Hire Coolangatta Gold gathered at the Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club on Wednesday for the event's official launch.
Defending champions Alistair Day and Courtney Hancock were at the event, along with Shannon Eckstein and Maddy Dunn.
Darren Mercer will also be in the limelight at this weekend's event, as competitors pay tribute to his late brother Dean - who passed away on the Gold Coast last month - with a minute's silence, a "paddles up” homage and black arm bands in honour of the athlete's memory.
"Deano” was an icon of surf life saving, and his tragic passing was something Hancock said had cemented her drive to push through the recent gruelling weeks of training.
Hancock had high hopes ahead of her race on Sunday morning, but conceded the Coolangatta Gold would always be a challenge.
"Preparing for this race, you can't take short cuts,” she said.
"It's a race that will really challenge you but it will feel fantastic at the end.
"I know in myself, I don't have too many more ahead of me, so every race I do now, I want to make the most of it.”
Day said he had been focusing on finding calm ahead of the event.
"I think as athletes we think too far ahead and start panicking... so I've been trying to focus on the good stuff and just enjoy what I'm doing, because I know it's not going to be there forever,” he said.
A massive 741 competitors are set to take part in the event across the weekend.