After three years of anguish, Courtney Duncan arrived back in New Zealand this week as the 2019 women's motocross world champion.

It has taken some incredible inner fortitude to keep heading back to Europe year after year to compete for the title after coming close at least twice before.

Over this season, Duncan clinched her first world title with a race to spare at the Grand Prix of Turkey.

So dominant was Duncan that she won nine of the 10 races in the championship.


The Kiwi, 23, had been hit with dramas since she joined the world championship series in 2016. In each of the past three seasons, she had been the dominant rider, frequently leading the championship before being beset by crashes and/or injury.

In her first year, the Otago rider was leading the championship when a photographer taking pictures in a landing zone was hit by her in a season-ending crash.

In 2017, while on track to win the title, Duncan swerved to miss a bunch of fallen riders only to smash into a fence and could finish only sixth, thus missing the title by a mere handful of points.

Last year, a foot injury ended her tilt at the world title, causing her to miss the final two rounds while holding a 21-point advantage.

"It is so good to be returning to New Zealand for a change as world champion and being healthy, which is a big accomplishment for me," Duncan told the Herald on Sunday.

"The expectations [of winning the world title] have been there for so long and for sure it's great to finally get it done in my fourth season and getting that weight off my shoulders.

Courtney Duncan won nine of the championship's 10 races. Photo / Getty Images
Courtney Duncan won nine of the championship's 10 races. Photo / Getty Images

"I was really confident the whole weekend but knew I still had a job to do. I wasn't even thinking about the disappointment of the last three years. You just have to tuck that stuff away and concentrate on what is in front of you, otherwise you get caught up in negative thoughts and lose focus.

"I'd had a really successful season up until the last race that helped going into the race and I also had plenty of confidence."


After years with Yamaha, Duncan took up the challenge of moving to a new team, riding a Kawasaki. She joined the well-respected British Bike It Dixon Racing Team on a KX250.

It had been 10 years since they contested the women's world championship and the team's faith in Duncan's ability has been well rewarded with a world title in their first year of partnership.

"I was getting to a stage where I almost wasn't enjoying training and stuff and I knew I needed a fresh start and new motivation.

"So I joined a new team and manufacturer and it couldn't have been a better fit. I had so much fun this year and I'd forgotten how much fun it could be. I got my motivation back and I'm riding like my old self again.

"It's so important, especially for me, that I'm in a good headspace and happy, as it brings confidence, and when I'm confident, it's hard to beat me.

"Kawasaki was pretty stoked with the world championship and it could be argued that they took a risk on signing me. I had three opportunities in the past and didn't deliver. It's cool that it all worked out and I've signed up until 2022 with the team and the brand," she said.

Normally it takes a season to bed in with a new team but that wasn't the case with Duncan. With such a dominant performance, she and the team can only grow.

The Dunedin rider is taking a break at home to enjoy her success.