Etowah’s Duvall uses her tumbling techniques for new sport
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
February 06, 2013 01:04 AM | 3741 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From a young age, Madison Duvall seemed destined to be a gymnast. But after suffering two broken vertebrae from the constant strain of gymnastics, Duvall had to switch sports to remain active, and she decided to turn her focus toward diving — where she has quickly grown.
<Br>Staff photo by Emily Barnes
From a young age, Madison Duvall seemed destined to be a gymnast. But after suffering two broken vertebrae from the constant strain of gymnastics, Duvall had to switch sports to remain active, and she decided to turn her focus toward diving — where she has quickly grown.
Staff photo by Emily Barnes
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Rarely do broken bones turn out to be a good thing.

But that is exactly how someone might view the stress fractures suffered by Madison Duvall.

A gymnast since she was a toddler, Duvall broke two vertebrae two years ago through the repeated impact of gymnastics, and she was no longer able to participate.

Her aunt, Carol Capitani, is the swimming coach at the University of Texas and often encouraged Duvall to switch to diving. So, when the opportunity came up, the Etowah High School student took the chance.

“I had to quit (gymnastics) after that because it was too high-impact for my body,” Duvall said. “And gymnastics and diving really go hand-in-hand, so I tried it.”

Duvall, a member of the Etowah swim team, is the only high school diver in the county.

She said she feels no ill effects from the broken vertebrae these days and has successfully made the transition to diving, despite having trained for just a little over a year.

Duvall works with coach Bill Humber to refine her technique. The 50-year coaching veteran, who started the Metro Atlanta Diving program and was the diving coach at Georgia Tech for 15 years, said that athletes like Duvall are rare.

“A coach comes across an athlete like her maybe once every 10 years,” Humber said. “She’s that good.”

Humber said what makes Duvall so great is that she is never satisfied.

“Whether I say, ‘It’s great enough,’ she always finds something that she can do better,” the coach said. “That’s the non-complacency that we coaches wish all of our athletes have in them.”

Duvall practices with Metro Atlanta Diving five days a week at Marietta’s Central Aquatic Center because there aren’t any pools with diving wells in Cherokee County. She travels with the team to meets around the country.

Duvall said the biggest challenge of switching sports was learning to land on her head instead of her feet.

“It’s really come along,” she said. “If I can’t be doing gymnastics, I would like to be doing something with flipping. I’ve really grown to love diving, even though I didn’t like it at first.”

Humber said they had to work on breaking some of Duvall’s old habits before they could make new ones.

“That is the part of being on an athlete from a different but similar sport,” Humber said. “They have some different habits that you have to break, and it can take two or three months to do that.”

Duvall said that, while she first was bitter about quitting gymnastics — a sport she had dedicated her life to — she now says she might prefer diving.

Still, she admits that diving isn’t for everyone.

“You have to love heights,” Duvall said. “You kind of have to be born for it, I guess. Not your average person would want to go and do 3½ flips off a 10-meter platform.”

Among her goals, Duvall would like to make a college diving team and an Olympic roster.

Her coach says both are within reach.

“What makes it so amazing is that she was only diving for seven months when she made the national championships,” Humber said. “That, in itself, is amazing.”

Last year, in just her first year competing as a diver, Duvall finished eighth at the state meet.

Duvall enjoys being a part of the team at Etowah and says that, while the school has never had a diver before, everyone is very supportive of her.

Her coach at Etowah agrees.

“She comes to all our meets,” Virginia Richards said. “The kids watch her, and she goes, even when she isn’t diving, to support us. She is good friends with a lot of kids on the team.”

At last week’s Cherokee County Invitational, Duvall was given the chance to swim on a relay team when one of the members was sick. She said that it was definitely a different experience.

“It was a challenge,” she said. “It was fun, and I got to help the team out, but I think I’ll stick to diving.”
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