Intermission

Interview: Callum | Photos: Chris Ritchie

From leading the WMX championship, Courtney Duncan’s season on the MXGP circuit changed in a heartbeat, when she collided with a photographer that was standing on the track. Suffering an injury, Miss Duncan is back in New Zealand, where we caught up with her to see what happened, the extent of her injuries and why nobody helped take her helmet off…

It’s a silly question to ask, given the events of last weekend, but how are things?
I am doing well. I’ve just got out of the pool, having done some exercise, while I wait for surgery. As I talk to you, it looks like I’ll be in surgery by next week. Obviously, I’m just trying to stay active to keep my mind off it.

So, due to the impact, you have damaged the ligaments in your thumb?
That’s right, yeah; it’s my hand. It looks like I’ll get a graft to repair the ligament, as it was torn on impact. Currently, I have a strap to support it, as I am just waiting for surgery.

Has the surgeon given you a timeline of recovery and where that puts you in the championship?
It is six to eight weeks, which takes me out for a few rounds. It’s frustrating, to say the least, but it needs to be fixed.

I know it’s early days, since you have still yet to go under the knife, but when will you be looking to get back on the bike?
I should be back for the last two rounds – in Switzerland and back to the Netherlands – but I need to see where I’m at with recovery. I am sure we’ll be back for those two rounds, though, as it is still a few months away.

So, you’ll only miss two rounds – in France and Italy – but you are out of the championship race, right?
For me, the championship race is over. We don’t have enough rounds left to make up the points. But it will still be good to get back and do those last two rounds to show what could and should have been.

You’ve said before that you never focussed too much on the cardio, as you preferred to work on bike fitness by being in the saddle of a bike, but will you be doing more while you’re in rehab.
I’ll stay pretty active before I go into surgery, doing a lot of swimming; but, of course, I’ll have to stay out of the water for a few weeks. I will be able to hop on the stationary bike, along with a bit of gym work, and then go from there. I’ll be ready, though, as I will make sure I am 100 per cent and come back even stronger.

Obviously, we know the aftermath of the incident, so could you talk us through what happened?
I was on the left of the track, where I jumped over the inside of a tabletop to land on the same side, setting me up for the right-hand turn at the bottom. It was a line that I had taken for every lap of the race. Then, on that last lap, I came up over the top to find the photographer standing there. But, by the time I saw her, it was done. I just did my best to try and get through whatever was to happen, but she clipped my handlebar and that forced my arm to come off, making the bike dig in. That saw me doing a few cartwheels down the landing, where I landed awkwardly and did the damage to my hand… I couldn’t believe I’d go out like that.

Your peak was straight down over your face, so you couldn’t see, all while being on a live track… did you wonder why the medics or the officials didn’t help you with that?
Yeah, that was even more frustrating. But the helmet peak was down over my face, which is why I couldn’t see a thing. Even worse, since I couldn’t use my hand, I wasn’t able to take my helmet off. I tried to pull the peak up and out of the way, but I couldn’t do that, either. I kept saying, “Can you take my helmet off?” But it was lost in translation, it seems. It was a minute later, at least, when someone finally took it off for me. Even now, I don’t know why I wasn’t helped.

Obviously, riding moto and racing at such a level, this is all part of the deal. But you’re lucky to have Josh Coppins in your corner, someone who has also had the same mishaps in his racing career that saw him losing a championship. Did he have any wisdom for you?
Definitely. He’s always been there for me. As you said, he’s been in the position before, so I couldn’t ask for a better person to be in my corner through these times. The advice helps, especially during those first days when I was pretty down. It’s always good having Josh ‘round, as he’s really supportive and positive, which keeps me determined to come back. Even though he’s frustrated, too, we’re both pretty fired up and determined to come back better.

When you and Josh – the people who were affected by the photographer being in the wrong place at the wrong time – spoke about the incident, it was quite diplomatic and professional. But there were some pretty negative posts – on social media and websites – about the photographer that got out of control and called for the shooter to be punished. So, with that, what has happened to the photographer?
I did see some of that, yeah. But I haven’t heard too much more. We haven’t had an apology from the photographer. We haven’t had one from Youthstream, either. That is pretty disappointing. There isn’t anything we can do about that, so I’ll just keep my head up and keep on moving forward.

The positive is that you’re still positive…
It is definitely hard to accept. But, if I wasn’t’ prepared to take the risk of injury, I would’ve chosen a different sport. It’s the risk we take every time we put a helmet on. Plus, there are positives to this season, as we’ve come a long way in the past year and I know where my speed is at. Really, it’s just frustrating to lose a championship, which is the thing I have the hardest time accepting.