By TONY WHITE
THE top dog with a whippet snapping at his heels and a former World Cup Number one ranked triathlete dominated proceedings before a big crowd at yesterday's third annual Sportsfest at Whiting Beach, Yamba.
Yamba Lifesaver Hugh Dougherty, 21, the former Australian Junior Ironman champion currently competing in the Kellog's NutriGrain Ironman Series and last year's Australian Junior Triathlete of the Year, Forster-based Brett Lee, staged a stirring duel for overall ironman honours in the men's section.
Diminutive 18-year-old Lee, who weighs just 57kg, was making his first visit to Yamba for Sportsfest, an event rapidly gaining wide recognition.
The fleet-of-foot youngster beat Dougherty in the Yamba Tiles and Lights 3km run ? averaging an amazing three minutes per kilometre ? and also beat Dougherty, ironman winner of the past two years, in the Westlawn Finance Aquathon ? 2km run, 750m swim and 2km run.
But when it came to the Greg Zietsch Electrical 750m swim, Dougherty's water skills shone through.
He led virtually throughout to win in 8m 26s with Lee finishing sixth.
That result and Dougherty's consistency enabled him to retain his ironman crown from Lee and Over60s veteran Steel Beveridge from Coffs Harbour, who won every event in his age category.
"This is just a fun day's racing," Dougherty said. "Young Brett can really run. This is good for me as I don't usually get to run against these type of guys.
"The quality of competition keeps getting better and better."
Next weekend Dougherty heads to Portsea, in Victoria, for round two of the Nutri Grain Series after finishing a debut 16th on the Gold Coast.
"The surf is generally pretty big at Portsea. It should be interesting," Dougherty, now representing Tugun Surf Club said.
"For me being in the Series is a dream come true, something I've been striving for most of my life.
"I didn't have a lot of luck in the opening round. It was an experience I'll never forget, but I'm hoping to do better at Portsea. I'll probably have to finish in the first five down there if I want to make the finals (top 10).
"It's been great being back home and I love competing in this event."
Lee said the Sportsfest offered an opportunity to "have some fun, compete and clear out the cobwebs after Christmas."