Camille Duvall, "The Golden Goddess" of professional water skiing, holds more titles in slalom than all other women waterskiers combined. Her nearly thirty year dominance in the sport is unprecedented, and her impact on the public's perception of water skiing helped it gain recognition and popularize the sun-drenched water sport. Her impact is so great that it is difficult to pinpoint just where the legend of Camille Duvall can be separated from the sport of professional water skiing.
Camille Duvall started water skiing when she was only four. Born July 11, 1960, to Sam and Diane Duvall, Camille and her brother were provided every opportunity to achieve success as a professional waterskiers. The single-mindedness with which the family went about their pursuit of excellence was stunning. Camille won her first tournament when she was six years old, and her determination to be better than everyone else was already apparent. She practiced near Greenville, South Carolina, on a private lake that her father, an executive with a construction company, leased for the sole use of his two athletically gifted children.
For hours on end each day, Camille worked with private coaches on courses that had been set up for her and her brother, complete with ramps and a variety of boats to simulate any of the variables they might face in a competition. It has been estimated that Duvall's father spent nearly $25,000 a year, for ten years, on his children. His intense desire to see his children succeed at any cost helped mold Camille into one of the best talents the world of water skiing has ever known.
Duvall's brother Sam also happened to be one of the sport's fiercest competitors. Perhaps one of the most talented sister-brother duo in any sport, Sam and Camille Duvall early on earned the nicknames "Golden Boy" and "Golden Girl."
As Camille matured, her popularity increased at the same rate, if not faster, as her skills on the water. Many believe her rising fame was due in no small part to her beauty. Duvall matured into a tall, statuesque woman whose physical presence, many said, was as impressive as her skiing feats. Her looks earned her the moniker "The Golden Goddess."
But her records clearly indicate that she came to win, not to show off for the crowd. In fact, Duvall was often unhappy—and rightly so—about the attention paid to her appearance. She wanted the emphasis on her achievements and what she could accomplish as an athlete. After high school, Duvall returned to Florida (the family had moved to Dallas during Camille's high school years) to concentrate solely on her skiing. She soon suffered a knee injury that, though not serious, pushed her away from the sport for a few years.
After a brief hiatus from water skiing, Duvall returned to the sport in 1981 and surpassed her former accomplishments. She rejoined the U.S. Elite Water Ski Team, and from 1983 to 1987 she helped that team to world championship victories. She also won the 1985 Women's World Slalom Championships, going on to capture many national, professional and Masters titles in the process.
Olympics Only A Dream
Unfortunately the sport of water skiing would not become an Olympic event until 1996—a few years after Duvall left the spotlight due to neck injuries and after her decision to retire in 1993. Camille Duvall would not be able to add Olympic gold to her list of accomplishments, but that did not lessen the impact of her phenomenal achievements, including being cited in 2000 as one of Sports Illustrated 's Top 100 Female Athletes of the Century.
Duvall's reach as a human being extends beyond the world of water sports and her three-decade tenure as the most dominant female athlete water skiing ever knew. She graduated from New York University's School of Broadcasting and used her communications skills in multiple arenas. She has been a television reporter and producer for various networks, including such sports powerhouses as ESPN and Fox Sports, as well as lesser known but still important venues such as MSG Network and Oxygen Sports. Duvall also published a book in 1992, Camille Duvall's Instructional Guide To Water Skiing.
After her retirement from the world of professional water skiing, Duvall—who has added her husband Byron Hero's last name to her own—has been a fixture in New York City's Upper East Side, where she has been for the past 14 years. She is a mother of two who wears many hats. Some of the work with which she is currently involved includes coaching the U.S. National Water Ski team (the first woman to hold that position); serving on the Board of Directors for New York City's 2012 bid for the Olympic Games; and serving as a member of the New York City Sports Commission. She is also the cofounder and marketing director for Duvall Competition Skis. In 2003, Duvall-Hero became the 47th person elected into the Water Ski Hall of Fame.
Address: Camille Duvall-Hero, 1356 Third Ave, New York, NY 10021.
|1960||Born July 11 to Sam and Dianne Duvall|
|1964||Gets on water skis for the first time|
|1966||Wins her first water ski tournament|
|1973||Jumps 100 feet for the first time (105 feet measured)|
|1975||Family moves to Dallas, participates in horse riding and other sports while still skiing|
|1978||Moves back to Florida after graduating to focus on skiing|
|1979||Injures knee in a fall, drops out of skiing for 2 years.|
|1979||Marries for the first time. Will divorce a few years later when she decides to focus on skiing|
|1981||Gets back into skiing at the urging of her family|
|1982||Starts competing once again, goes on the road on a tournament tour|
|1986||Father dies of a heart attack at 49|
|1992||Publishes her book, Camille Duvall's Instructional Guide to Water Skiing|
|1994||Retires from a thirty year water skiing career while still ranked #1 in the world|
|2000||Sports Illustrated names her #91 on the 20th century's Top 100 athletes|
|2003||Inducted into the American Water Ski Hall of Fame|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1975-78||Member of Undefeated World Champion U.S. Elite Water Ski Team|
|1983-87||Member of Undefeated World Champion U.S. Elite Water Ski Team|
|1984-85||Women's Slalom Champion|
|1984-88||Wins Pro World Slalom Championships|
|1985||Women's World Slalom Champion|
|2003||Inducted into American Water Ski Hall of Fame|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY DUVALL:
Camille Duvall's Instructional Guide to Water Skiing, Fireside Press, 1992.
"Camille Duvall."Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.
"Camille Duvall."Newsmakers, Issue Cumulation. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1996.
Duvall, Camille. Camille Duvall's Instructional Guide to Water Skiing. Fireside Press, 1992.
Falla, Jack. "Wild, Wet and Wondrous."Sports Illustrated (August 5, 1985).
Neil, Mike and Linda Marx. "No one beats slalom champ Camille Duvall at making waves where the buoys are."People Weekly (July 13, 1987).
Announcement of Duvall's induction into Hall of Fame. http://www.usawaterski.org/pages/Current%20News/CN2003DuvallHallofFame.htm (January 29, 2003).
"Camille Duvall-Hero: Trailblazing in Action." Women's Sports Foundation. http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/cgi-bin/iowa/athletes/article.html?record=27 (January 29, 2003).
Sketch by Eric Lagergren