Olivia Dunne says 'tears filled my eyes' as LSU won NCAA women's gymnastics championship (2024)

Olivia "Livvy" Dunne can add another line to her growing resume as a social media star and college gymnast: national champion.

Dunne, 21, is part of the Louisiana State University women's gymnastics team that brought home its first NCAA title in thrilling fashion on April 20 at Dickies Arena in Forth Worth, Texas.

"You know what, it is still feeling just unreal," Dunne said on TODAY on April 22. "I'm still trying to get my voice back from cheering so loud. It was an unforgettable experience, and I'll probably be thinking about it for the rest of my life."

Olivia Dunne says 'tears filled my eyes' as LSU won NCAA women's gymnastics championship (1)

The Tigers edged second-place University of California, Berkeley after junior Aleah Finnegan scored a 9.95 as the team's final performer on the beam to bring home the victory. Dunne did not compete in the championships, but was there to root on her teammates.

"It was probably one of the best beam routines I've ever seen her do," Dunne said about Finnegan. "Tears filled my eyes, tears filled Tigers' fans eyes, tears filled her eyes — it was amazing."

Now that she's a national champ, Dunne has a decision to make: return to LSU for a fifth season of eligibility granted from the COVID-19 pandemic, or pursue other opportunities as a popular social media presence.

"It definitely makes me want to come back, but I haven't quite thought about it completely," Dunne said. "I've just been focused on the now and winning this national title, so I'll definitely start thinking about it."

After starting the sport as a 3-year-old in gyms near her hometown of Hillsdale, N.J., she is now nationally recognized in the world of gymnastics, having competed in Italy at the 2017 Jesolo Trophy as part of the USA National Team. The USA junior team went on to win the gold All Around medal.

Olivia Dunne says 'tears filled my eyes' as LSU won NCAA women's gymnastics championship (2)

During her career with LSU, Dunne has garnered the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) Scholastic All-American title, an honor given to outstanding U.S. athletes in a specific sport.

Her success, however, surpasses gymnastics bars: She has over 5 million followers on Instagram and 8 million on TikTok, a fanbase that only keeps growing. Dunne’s content includes dance videos, a glimpse of behind the scenes at competitions and lifestyle moments.

A potential hurdle to her growing brand could be a possible ban of TikTok, which is included in a bill up for a vote in the U.S. Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives.

The China-based owner of the platform would be forced to sell TikTok within nine months of the law going into effect or it would be banned from use in the U.S.

"If I'm being honest, I didn't quite know that TikTok was going to get banned," Dunne said. "I've just been training every day in the gym and just working on my gymnastics and doing what I love, and that's what I love to focus on. I haven't really thought about it too much."

The gymnast's online presence has started to converge with the off screen world, as fans gather at gymnastics meets hoping to see her.

Such was the case in Salt Lake City in January 2023. A TikTok video taken by Sam Peszek captured dozens of male fans gathered outside, chanting Dunne’s name and saying, "We want Livvy."

Dunne was not competing that day due to an injury, per ESPN.

Another TikTok user showed a crowd gathered inside the competition center, holding signs in support of Dunne.

Another video showed another angle of supporters holding signs for Dunne inside the arena.

Responding to the heightened attention, Dunne put out a call on Twitter asking for "respect" from her fans who go to meets.

“I will always appreciate and love the support from you guys, but if you come to a meet, I want to ask you to please be respectful of the other gymnasts and the gymnastics community as we are just doing our job.”

Dunne opened up about the incident in further detail with TODAY's Stephanie Gosk.

"In the past, I have had some of my supporters come out to meets and watch and cheer for LSU, but that was insane. It really was," Dunne said.

Since then, the university increased its security measures, with LSU coach Jay Clark telling reporters a security detail would travel with the team for the rest for the season, per ESPN.

"They gave us some new rules, us athletes, just to keep us safe, to not go into the stands after meets. We have a new security person who travels with us," Dunne said.

Why is Livvy Dunne so popular?

Dunne is at the forefront of college athletes experiencing from social media stardom, thanks to recent policy changes in the NCAA's NIL (name, image and likeness) policy that began to take effect on July 1, 2021, which allows college athletes to have benefit economically from sponsorships and use of their name.

Her fanbase and social media presence have led to sponsorships with Grubhub, Vuori, BodyArmor and American Eagle. Dunne told Gosk her income reaches seven figures.

Olivia Dunne says 'tears filled my eyes' as LSU won NCAA women's gymnastics championship (3)

“It is very cool that someone in college has the opportunity to do that now,” Dunne said.

How much money does Livvy Dunne make?

According to data collected in October 2022 by ON3, a college sports company focused on digital media, data and marketing, Dunne’s influence is at the top of all college women athletes.

Dunne has an NIL valuation of $2.3 million and $31,000 per post value, per ON3NIL. For comparison, the second athlete on the list is fellow gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, who became a national sensation last summer after winning Olympic gold with Team USA in Tokyo. With 31.5 million followers, Lee has an NIL valuation of $1.5 million and a $21,000 per post value.

For Dunne, this moment of success is the product of hard work.

“I pretty much sacrificed my summers, those pool days, those beach days with your friends,” Dunne told Gosk. “I was in the gym training.”

She plans to turn her "brand into a business" after she graduates, per Gosk.

Anahy Diaz

Anahy Diaz is a Platforms NBC Page atTODAY.com,where she contributes to the management of newsletters and main cover stories. Anahy is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso with a B.A. in Multimedia Journalism.

Scott Stump

Scott Stump is a trending reporter and the writer of the daily newsletter This is TODAY (which you should subscribe to here!) that brings the day's news, health tips, parenting stories, recipes and a daily delight right to your inbox. He has been a regular contributor for TODAY.com since 2011, producing features and news for pop culture, parents, politics, health, style, food and pretty much everything else.

Olivia Dunne says 'tears filled my eyes' as LSU won NCAA women's gymnastics championship (2024)

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