Sport can be cruel but Duncan unfazed

Palmerston rider Courtney Duncan had to settle for third in the women's motocross world...
Palmerston rider Courtney Duncan had to settle for third in the women's motocross world championship this year. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR
Champion-in-waiting Courtney Duncan could use a four-leaf clover under the Christmas tree this year.

The Palmerston rider has twice been denied a shot at the motocross world championship title thanks to the mistakes of others.

But the 21-year-old refuses to be defined by her latest slice of rotten luck and has vowed to return next year with the same determination she used to blitz the field in her last race of the season.

``My mentality for that race is what I need to bring in every race next year,' she said.

``I was winning no matter what and it definitely helped.''

That ought to give her competitors shivers. When Duncan stays upright she is either at the front or way out in front.

She smashed the field in the final race of the campaign in September. She was so far ahead in France, she had lapped every rider bar the second-placed competitor who trailed by a whopping 40 seconds.

It was an emphatic statement by Duncan who had to grit her teeth and ride through bitter disappointment.

A day earlier her title prospects had evaporated. She had a comfortable 15-second lead in the opening race of the leg but hit a fence on the final lap after she was forced to take evasive action to avoid a pile-up involving five riders.

Officials initially awarded points based on the placings at the start of the last lap, which would have enabled Duncan to win the race and stay in contention for the title. But they reversed their decision.

``As soon as they made that decision I was like, `right, I'm going to dominate this race and I don't care how I do it - I'm just going to go out there and put it to them' and I was able to do that.''

It was the second time Duncan had been knocked out of the running. In 2016, a photographer strayed too close to the track causing Duncan to crash and badly injure herself.

``To be honest, I've moved on pretty quick from [the latest setback],'' she said.

``I've told myself it was no big deal and that way I've been able to bear it and move on.

``There is another opportunity next year and I'm excited for that.''

Duncan finished just two points off first place and had to settle for third.

Had officials stuck with their initial decision, Duncan would be a world champion. Her camp challenged the decision but was unsuccessful.

``It was disappointing, for sure, especially considering they made a decision but changed it back. But we can't dwell on that sort of thing.''

Italian Kiara Fontanesi claimed the title with Frenchwoman Livia Lancelot in second place.

While Duncan has earned some favours from lady luck, she did not ride anywhere near as well as she would have liked during the series in the Netherlands, picking up two fourth placings.

``There were times this year where I put myself in bad positions and I only have myself to blame for that.''

She was also hampered by a knee injury she picked up in round three. Duncan tore her meniscus and was able to train on her bike only once a week.

She had corrective surgery on her knee as well as a hand injury post season and, in the last two weeks, has returned to training, although she has been instructed to stay off her motorbike until February when she returns to her base in Belgium.

``I have a good feeling about next year. I'm doing whatever it takes to be back 100% healthy. I'll be ticking all the boxes.''

And hopefully standing on a box - the top step of the podium - at the end of the season.


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