Lots of 11-year-olds dream about going to the Olympics, but Olivia Dunne of Hillsdale, N.J., could actually have what it takes.
Olivia, who trains at the Eastern National Academy of Gymnastics with coaches Craig and Jennifer Zappa, competed as a level 4 only four years ago. She was featured in USA Gymnastics’ Faces in the Gym when her team broke the record at the New Jersey State Championships, where Olivia also earned a 38.9 to win the all-around title and won gold on every event but vault (she got silver).
One year after her level 4 domination, Olivia was competing level 8. By December 2012, the ten-year-old had made her level 10 debut at Christmas on the Chesapeake, where she placed 4th in the all-around.
This sort of meteoric rise through the levels is something I haven’t seen since 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber did it early in her career. The parallels between the two as they quickly progressed through the J.O. program is no coincidence; advancement like this is mark of a truly gifted young gymnast, so it was no surprise when Olivia qualified to junior international elite at the ranch this past May, making her the youngest elite currently competing in the United States.
Olivia setting the N.J. level 10 state record on beam with her 9.7
After qualifying to elite status, Olivia made her competitive debut at the American Classic held at the National Team Training Center in Huntsville, Texas, on July 5. She placed 28th there, but showed tremendous potential; her difficulty matches that of other juniors much older and more experienced than she is and she is very polished in her skills.
Be sure to check out Olivia’s floor routine from the American Classic above. Her music and choreography are so unique and enchanting, and she’s one of the only elites I’ve seen who doesn’t make the new corner requirement look like a chore; she actually dances into it and runs into her tumbling in a way that makes it flow with the music and her movement. It’s brilliant for any elite, let alone someone her age.
We spoke to Olivia as she was preparing for the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic this week. Check out what she had to say!
1. What have you and your coach been working on the most this week to prepare for the competition?
This week we are working on cleaning up my routines.
2. Are you nervous, excited, or a little bit of both?
I feel mostly excited to compete and see my friends.
3. What is your biggest goal for yourself at the U.S. Classic?
My biggest goal at the Classic is to get a qualifying score and make it to Championships.
4. What is your biggest goal for yourself in gymnastics?
My biggest goal in gymnastics is to one day represent the United States and go to the 2020 Olympics!
5. What is your favorite event? Is there a dream skill you would like to someday compete?
One of my favorite events is bars. I would love to compete a Hindorff one day.
6. Who is your favorite gymnast? Why is she an inspiration to you?
One of my favorite gymnasts is Nica Hults. I’ve watched her on Youtube since I was little.
7. How does it feel knowing you’ll be competing in the same arena with Olympians and World Champions?
It feels so cool to be in the same competition with people you admire.
8. What moment in your gymnastics career so far has made you the most proud?
I am so proud of making Jr. International Elite this year.
9. Do you have any funny stories from training or competitions you’d like to share?
Just the other day, someone took my videos and was impersonating me on Instagram. I was really mad someone else was trying to take credit for my hard work. My coach and teammates surprised me with a super funny video. Everyone wore masks with my face and pretended to be me. It was really funny and made me laugh about the whole thing.
10. How do you get yourself pumped up before a competition?
Before a big meet, I put motivational notes around my room to remind me of how far I’ve come, and get me excited to compete.
Thank you, Olivia! Best of luck to you and everyone else competing this weekend.
Don’t miss a word of our coverage! Bookmark the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic coverage page for all of our coverage leading up to, during, and after the event.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Photo thanks to ENA Paramus