Radio Sport Mornings' host Jason Pine counts down the top 15 sporting moments of the year. Today: Number 13 - Courtney Duncan becomes MX World Champion.

After three years of bitter anguish, Kiwi motorcross rider Courtney Duncan finally became Women's Motocross World Champion in 2019.

It took 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.

The 23-year-old from Otago had been hit with dramas since she joined the world championship series in 2016. In each of the past three years, she'd been the dominant rider, often leading the championship before suffering crashes, injury or other misfortune.

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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, 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.

 Courtney Duncan celebrates winning the Motocross World Championship in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Courtney Duncan celebrates winning the Motocross World Championship in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

But fortunes would change in 2019, despite Duncan admitting she came close to calling it quits altogether.

At the beginning of the year, she ended a decade long association with Yamaha to ride with the British-based Kawasaki squad BIKE IT Dixon Racing Team.

The first of five rounds, each containing two races, was in the Netherlands in late March. Duncan won the first race, but came home seventh in the second.

From there, it was to Portugal in mid-May, where she won both races to take the overall lead in the championship.

Round three was in the Czech Republic where Duncan really flexed her muscles and showed her class, again winning both races, both by the convincing margin of 36 seconds.

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That took her to 139 championship points, 14 ahead of Dutch rider Nancy Van De Ven and 17 clear of German Larissa Papenmeier.

Just two rounds remained, and next up was Italy in mid-August.

Again, Duncan was supreme, winning both races to go 23 points clear of Papenmeier with van der Ven now trailing in third place. That effectively meant Courtney Duncan just had to finish the two races at the final round in Turkey to clinch her maiden world title - but she wasn't interested in just plodding along.

Duncan had won by a whopping 12.818 seconds to give her an unassailable championship lead with a race to spare. It was her 8th win in nine races, and just for good measure she also won race 10 to make it nine wins from 10 races, eventually winning the championship by a whopping 36 points.

In doing so, she became the first New Zealand woman to hold a world motocross title since Katherine Oberlin-Brown won the Women's World Cup in 2006 and 2007.


Top 15 sporting moments of 2019
No 15 - Eliud Kipchoge's sub-two hour marathon
No 14 - The Rise of Bianca Andreescu