Will she be back in 2025 or won't she? LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne makes her decision. (2024)

  • BY SCOTT RABALAIS | Sports columnist

    Scott Rabalais

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Olivia Dunne is not done.

The LSU gymnast and social media superstar became the last Tiger senior to announce her decision regarding the 2025 season, revealing Monday that she will compete for the reigning NCAA champions in a fifth and final campaign.

Dunne revealed her plans in a video on her Instagram account.

"These past four years have changed my life," Dunne said in the video. "There’s something about putting on a purple and gold leotard. There's something about competing in front of 13,000 screaming Tiger fans. There’s something about being pushed by your coaches to be your very best. And there’s something about being part of a team that made school history.

“No matter how many opportunities come my way off the mat, there’s just something about LSU. And that’s why I’m here to say … I’m not ‘Dunne’ yet.”

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Dunne said she began to think about a fifth season during the 2024 campaign, then gave it even more consideration after the Tigers won the program’s first NCAA team title in April.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do right after I was done,” she said. “Do I want to end on a high note or do I want to go back?

“I have so much stuff going on outside the gym, but I wouldn’t have that if not for my time as a gymnast.”

An All-American on uneven bars in 2021 as a freshman, the 21-year-old has been a role-playing specialist for LSU her entire career. At the same time, she grew to become one of the most recognized athletes in college sports through her social media empire and commercial endorsem*nts.

According to On3.com, Dunne has 13.2 million followers on social media and has the second-highest NIL valuation of any college athlete behind only Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders. On3.com put Sanders’ valuation at $4.6 million compared to Dunne’s $3.9 million, despite the fact that she has nearly 11 million more followers than he does.

For all her fame and adulation away from the gym, continuing to be just a teammate to her fellow LSU gymnasts had its appeal for Dunne.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my teammates,” she said. “They’re like sisters to me. Whenever we’re in the locker room, we just talk like normal 20-something year olds. We don’t talk about work or anything like that. We all share such a love for the sport.

“We also have a common goal in mind, like the national championship. To work toward that then accomplish that, there’s no better feeling. That’s a bond I’ll cherish forever.”

After an injury-marred 2023 season in which she competed in only four meets, Dunne was a regular contributor to the Tigers in their run to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA championships in 2024.

She competed on floor eight times with highs of 9.90 in two meets, including LSU's victory in the NCAA Fayetteville regional. Dunne also performed on bars twice, scoring a 9.875 in the Podium Challenge at the Raising Cane's River Center and a 9.80 in the SEC championships at the Smoothie King Center.

The Hillsdale, New Jersey, native also has been a three-time member of the SEC academic honor roll.

“I really found my love for the sport again this year,” Dunne said. “I figured potentially going back and winning it again would just be so fun.”

LSU coach Jay Clark is happy about her decision.

"She played a vital role for us last year all season long," Clark said. "She went in different spots and spelled people and became sort of a utility position player. We have plenty of question marks health-wise going into (next) year, and I want her to think she can be as productive as she's ever been."

A two-time Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, Dunne’s fame went to another level earlier this year when her relationship with former LSU All-American pitcher Paul Skenes became public.

The overall No. 1 draft pick in 2023 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Skenes has been a sensation himself since being called up May 11. On Sunday, he was selected to the MLB All-Star Game set for July 16. Dunne was in Pittsburgh on Sunday and threw Skenes an impromptu celebration at his apartment. She said she will be in Arlington, Texas, for the All-Star Game.

Dunne joins fellow seniors Haleigh Bryant, the NCAA all-around champion and Honda Award winner, Chase Brock, Sierra Ballard and Alyona Shchennikova in deciding to return for a fifth or sixth season in 2025. Kiya Johnson, the 2024 SEC co-floor champion with teammate KJ Johnson, and Elena Arenas decided not to return.

“I do think people associate me with LSU,” Dunne said. “LSU is a worldwide-known brand. It’s just an honor to go back for a fifth year there.”

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