So many young New Zealand women have excelled at motocross on the international stage over the years and we have in the past week enjoyed giving you a glimpse into the lives of a few of these remarkable individuals.
There is so much to be proud of when looking back at the racing careers of individuals such as Lisa Heath, Jamie-Lee Caldwell, Josephine Adlam, Tania Satchwell, Emma Davis, Shelley Hickman, Mary Perkins, Melissa Mudgway, Nikki Scott, Alanna Columb, Elyse Wadsworth, Julie Managh, Letitia Alabaster, Taylar Rampton, Mel Patterson, Kimberley Murphy, Roma Edwards and Courtney Duncan, among others, each of whom have contributed to putting New Zealand on the motocross map over the years.
We truly wish we had the resources to be able to examine in more depth the careers of every one of these remarkable women, but, sadly, time is not our friend.
However, today we will look a little more closely at the latest chapter in the remarkable career of our No.1 motocross export (regardless of gender), Otago’s Courtney Duncan, a woman who has been world No.1 for three consecutive years and whose career is still far from over.
We’ve already looked at Duncan’s early years and now we’ll examine in a little more depth her latest conquest, her winning of the 2021 WMX world championship title.
Duncan wrapped up her third overall World Championship title victory at the Grand Prix of Trentino, the sixth and final round of the 2021 series.
The 25-year-old Kawasaki rider went into the final round holding a 16-point lead in the series but she was also carrying a painful injury after suffering a broken finger the previous weekend in Spain.
She remained calm through the always hectic opening lap of race one to settle into an initial eighth place before starting to pick off the girls ahead of her one-by-one.
After four laps she was already third and, with her closest rival at the start of the day also encountering misfortune on the opening lap, the successful title defence was looming closer as she set her sights on the remaining challenger in the points chase.
Secure in the knowledge that she did not need to risk a pass to secure her three-peat world title she stayed in her rival’s wheel tracks whilst ensuring that there was no renewed threat from behind to take the chequered flag third and set the seal on the individual WMX world title for the third consecutive season.
The post-race celebrations could begin but, professional as ever, the world No.1 and the Bike It MTX Kawasaki team were soon preparing diligently for race two as there was still one more job to be done.
And the champion did it in style in race two, taking the lead on lap two and racing eight seconds clear for her fifth moto win of the season, slapping down an emphatic rubber stamp on her dominance of the sport.
“It was nice to clinch the title with a race to go,” she said afterwards. “The competition is tough. We only have six races and the earlier you can win it the better. This year’s been really tough. We’ve had our ups-and-downs but I’ve made the best out of every situation and fought for every single point.
“What a feeling to do it three years in a row with the same team and the same brand.”
Duncan could have and probably should have been crowned world champion in 2016, 2017 or 2018. But, for those three consecutive seasons, the intrepid Kiwi had luck abandon her in her hour of need.
Twice she was denied the world title through injury and on the other occasion she was victim of a controversial decision by officials.
Destined never to race a GP on home soil and, in fact, she was always going to have to travel the farthest of any rider to compete on this world stage, Duncan had to endure three frustrating seasons of “so close, but yet so far” before her breakthrough success in 2019.
But her sad memories of those early disappointments were certainly erased when she won the women’s world crown again in 2020 and 2021, the Kiwi heroine making it a rare three-peat of world titles, something which she will no doubt seek to extend in 2022.
© Words and photos by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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