Sticking the landing: LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne makes herself known on the mat and online
Olivia Dunne’s debut as an LSU gymnast in January came complete with a 9.875 score on the uneven bars—and a heavily wrapped ankle that kept her from competing in any other event. But the 18-year-old New Jersey native—whose résumé includes the distinction of being the youngest American gymnast in the junior international elite program at age 11, as well as a stint on the USA National team—didn’t incur the injury during a daring dismount. Rather, it happened inside her own apartment.
Just call her the ultimate fashion victim.
“I was literally just standing in my kitchen on a Sunday afternoon in my platform Air Force 1s, and I took a step and rolled my ankle,” Dunne says with a laugh. “The next minute, I was icing it with a bag of frozen chicken nuggets.”
Not even a shoe-induced sprain could keep this athlete on the sidelines for long, though. In fact, her enthusiasm for the sport and for her new collegiate home can’t even be contained inside a gym. Just ask any of Dunne’s 3.6 million TikTok followers—a number that reportedly gives her the biggest fan base on the social media platform of any NCAA athlete. “It kind of all started last March, when I was quarantining in Florida,” she says. “I was honestly just making videos for fun, and every day I’d do a new post. The next thing I knew, I had 3 million followers. I couldn’t believe it! It was fun to watch it grow, but it definitely wasn’t something I set out to do.”
Dunne’s internet fame is also shining a spotlight on the Tigers. “I love to use my platform to give LSU the hype,” she says. “They deserve it. This is truly the best school ever, and I always get so many likes whenever I post about LSU.”
Dunne says her experience on campus so far has been a bit of an adjustment after home schooling for all of her high school years and competing as an individual elite gymnast. But just like learning a new balance beam routine, she’s embracing her new environment, from the Southern climate to the spicy food.
“It’s everything I could have dreamed of,” she says. “The school spirit is incredible, and I love the fact that my teammates always have my back. And I like the discipline and structure of our training—it makes the victories feel even better.”