Olivia Dunne of ENA Gymnastics in Paramus, New Jersey is coached by Craig and Jennifer Zappa. She rose to prominence in 2014 as the youngest gymnast in the U.S. to qualify as an International Elite and compete at the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic at just 11 years old. A natural gymnast, Olivia had excelled in the sport as a young girl, moving from level 5 to level 8 in just one year and was level 10 by the time she was 10 years old. She set numerous state records in New Jersey from level 4 up to level 10. Certainly, this impressive rise to the top is proof that Olivia Dunne is one to watch. Not a senior until 2018, whilst she has been on the elite scene since 2013, competing as a Hopes gymnast at the U.S. Challenge in 2013 and placing 2nd AA, this Olympic cycle will be her time to shine as we set our sights on Toyko in 2020.
There is something very Jordyn Wieber-esque about this young prodigy. The 2011 World Champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist was also level 10/ elite at 10 years old and competed throughout the 2005-08 Olympic cycle although she was not eligible for senior competition until 2011. Wieber, like Dunne excelled as a young gymnast moving through the levels at a rapid pace and if Wieber’s destiny is anything to go by, Olivia’s future is certainly bright. She is certainly a rising star and has continued to move up in placement in the elite ranks since 2014, placing 25th AA at the P&G Championships in 2015 and going on to place 12th AA at this years P&G Championships. I suspect we will see Olivia on the U.S. National Team next year and competing internationally.
Here, Olivia talks her future plans, what National Team camps are like with new U.S. Women’s National Team Co-Ordinator, Valeri Liukin in charge, school, college gymnastics and her early days in the sport.
1) Congratulations on a great 2016 season, what was the highlight for you?
The highlight of my 2016 season was winning two medals at P&G Championships.
2) You have been on the elite scene for a few years now, how do you think that will help you as you enter a new Olympic cycle?
I’ve been attending camps and competing at the elite level since I was ten years old. Since elite competitions can be different and more intense, I think it helps to have had those experiences going into my next season.
3) Early in your gymnastics career, you moved through the levels pretty fast, can you tell me a little about that and how it came about that you moved from level 5 to level 8 in just one year?
The year I went from level 5 to level 8, I had just turned 8 years old and I wasn’t really focused on the levels. I had just finished a really successful level 4 season, and my coach, Craig, started working extra hours with me so I could try new skills. I am sure he had more of a plan at that time, but I wasn’t really aware that it was a big deal.
4) How did you first get involved in gymnastics?
I loved to tumble and climb, but what I really really wanted was a pink sparkly leotard.
5) You were the youngest competitor at the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic, how was that experience for you and how do you think you’ve changed since then?
I was really proud to be the youngest competitor at the 2014 US Secret Classic, but regardless of my age, I wanted to qualify for championships. When I missed out on getting the qualifying score, I attended developmental camp the following week and won physical abilities. I think it gave me the motivation to work even harder towards my elite goals. Since then I’ve qualified for P&G Championships for the past two years.
6) Being at the elite level during this past Olympic cycle you got to know the girls on the National Team, what was it like watching them go through the Olympic Trials process and then the Olympic Games?
Because I personally knew the girls and how hard they all work, I felt extra nervous watching Olympic trials and the Olympic Games. I wanted them to all do so well.
7) How has your training been going since the Summer, can we expect any upgrades for 2017?
I’ve been working hard on many upgrades since last year. I am working on a double full on vault. I have additional releases in my bar routine. I have a new triple series on beam. I also have new turns in my dance and am working on an Arabian double front on floor.
8) What are your goals for 2017 and for the next few years in the elite world?
My goal is to make the National Team and be selected for an international assignment.
9) Is college gymnastics something that interest you? If so, are there any schools in particular that you are interested in?
Now that I am a freshman, I have just started to look at colleges.
10) What is your favourite event to train and compete and are there any skills that you particularly love?
My favorite event to train is bars. I like to work on release moves.
11) Tell me a little about how you balance your school work with gymnastics and has that changed since you’ve entered High School?
I focus on my school work every day after practice. High school is more work, but I try to keep myself organized so that I can stay on top of everything, especially when I have to travel for camps and competitions.
12) You recently attended the National Team Camp, how do you think these camps help you ans what is it like with Valeri Liukin in charge?
Going to National Team Camp helps me perfect the skills I’m working on with the help of national staff. It is also a great opportunity for me to practice with the other elite girls who have become some of my closest friends. Valeri is a great coach who I’ve been working with since I started in the developmental program. I feel really lucky to have attended the first National Team camp under his direction.
13) New Jersey is now becoming a real gymnastics hotspot, can you tell me a little about your gym and coaches and what makes it special?
I am really lucky to have Craig and Jen coach me. I am the first elite gymnast at ENA Gymnastics, and they have been so committed to helping me reach my goals. I also love all my teammates who support and cheer me on, and sometimes even travel to my meets. Everyone there is like family to me.
14) Is there any gymnastics blood in your family or are you the only gymnast?
I am the only gymnast in my family.
15) And finally, is there any particular gymnast that inspires you?
Two gymnasts that inspire me are Simone and Nastia. They are both great gymnasts and also really nice people.