TOP RIDER OVERCOMES INJURY AND SETBACK TO AIM FOR A BIG FINISH IN THE WMX CHAMPIONSHIP
It has been a season of memorable highs and incredible lows for Kiwi world motocross championships campaigner Courtney Duncan.
But this has served only to make the Otago woman more motivated and she will be one of those favoured to win at the seventh and final round in the Netherlands this weekend.
When she crashed out of the first of her two races at the German Grand Prix in early May, and was unable to start the second one, Duncan knew her women’s world championship (WMX) title bid was over for 2016.
And when this feisty young competitor from the South Island spent the following two GPs on the sideline, after undergoing surgery — and then took more time off to recover — it meant her chances for a podium finish for the year evaporated.
With four race wins from the seven races (in the four rounds) she’s started so far this year, Duncan has shown she’s perhaps the individual most deserving of a title.
The 20-year-old from Palmerston won the day at the penultimate round of the WMX in Switzerland just over a fortnight ago, again showing she is truly No.1 in the sport.
Although it seems winning the world championship title is perhaps just a matter of time for the Altherm JCR Yamaha Racing Team rider, it will have to wait until at least next year, thanks to a photographer’s thoughtlessness that led to her disastrous injury earlier this season.
Duncan was comfortably leading the championships by round three in Germany and was leading the first WMX race of the weekend when she clipped an errant photographer standing out on the track over a blind jump.
Committed to the jump, Duncan had nowhere to go and could not avoid the photographer. She hit the ground hard, damaging her wrist and thumb.
The injury-enforced mid-season lay-off that followed meant Duncan dropped from first position to a distant eighth in the standings.
Her overall win in Switzerland boosted her back to sixth place in the championships, although the best she can probably hope for this season is to finish fourth or fifth.
“I’m not worried about where I finish up in the championship now. That’s been ruined for me. It’s all about setting myself up for next season now,” she said. The seventh and final round of the championships is set for the infield at the Assen road-race circuit in the Netherlands this weekend and Duncan is determined to finish the season with a bang.
“My injured hand was solid (in Switzerland) ... it was not far off 100 per cent,” she said.
“I had no problem with it all that weekend and not much pain. It gets better each time I ride.
“I really didn’t know where I was sitting in the championships before the weekend. It was kind of like coming into the opening round all over again, as I’d missed the previous few rounds and obviously had also been off the bike for a long time. I’d been three months away from it and had to watch it on television instead of being behind the gate.
“ I was just blessed to be back out there doing what I love and to come away with the win — I couldn’t have asked for too much more.
“I had two weeks of riding leading up to the Swiss GP and felt solid, but there was a lot of room for improvement. For sure, winning the weekend in Switzerland was a nice comeback. I’m not looking at the series overall, obviously I’m well and truly out of that. We have one round left for this season and I would love to finish on a high.”