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Motocross rider Courtney Duncan may have appeared to come from nowhere to win her first world championship race, but she is no overnight sensation.
The 20-year-old Palmerston rider returned to a hero's welcome at Dunedin Airport last night after securing two wins in her debut showing in the women's world motocross championships in Qatar.
Duncan qualified fourth-fastest for the round one event at the track in Losail, but stepped it up a gear to win her two races by 27sec and 28sec respectively.
She may have been somewhat of an unknown quantity on the motocross circuit, but Duncan had had her sights set on world success for some time.
Three knee operations and a concussion, countless sacrifices and a huge training schedule were testimony to that, her mother, Linda Duncan, said.
"We're just so proud of her, and she deserves it.
"She's always been focused.
"For a teenager to not really have a social life because she's so dedicated to her sport, her food, everything ... it's incredible.''
Duncan had her third knee operation recently and only returned to competitive racing last month.
Her stepfather and first coach, Carey Turner, who was with Duncan in Qatar, said the champion had always been fearless and dedicated.
"It's pretty good, pretty special,'' he said of the win.
"It's been a long way getting there.
"She's a very determined kid.''
Duncan, now coached by world No2 Josh Coppins, said the ovation she received on her return home was overwhelming.
Among the 50 or so people to welcome her back were her grandparents, sister, cousins and many of the Palmerston community.
"It was unbelievable. It's just been unreal, the support.''
Although it was her debut race, Duncan had high hopes at Losail.
"I was going there to win, put it that way.
"I'm a racer, and I went to win.''
Duncan will now focus her attention on getting to the round two event at Valkenswaard, in the Netherlands, in five weeks.