TikTok star gymnast Olivia Dunne’s team hires bodyguard after she was mobbed by teen boy fans at event

LSU’s meet with Utah interrupted by rambunctious fans of Ms Dunne

Abe Asher
Friday 13 January 2023 13:00 GMT
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Lousiana State University has hired a bodyguard to travel with its gymnastics team after TikTok star athlete Olivia Dunne was mobbed by teenage boy fans at an event in Utah, creating a scene so chaotic police were called in.

A high-powered college gymnastics meet between the LSU Tigers and Utah Utes on 6 January was upended by fans who came to the arena in Salt Lake City to see 20-year-old Ms Dunne.

One of the biggest stars in college athletics – a rarity for gymnastics - Ms Dunne has more than six million followers on TikTok, nearly three million followers on Instagram, and a name, image and likeness (NIL) valuation of around $2.5m.

Her status as a social media star drew a number of fans out to the season-opening clash between Utah and LSU, but the spectacle some of them created overwhelmed a contest between two of the top gymnastics programs in the country.

The frenzy was so great that the team will now travel with a security officer for the rest of the season, Coach Jay Clark said Tuesday.

“That person will be in our hotel and outside our locker room and getting us to and from the bus at the venue,” Clark told The Advocate/Times-Picayune. “[The officer] will be there to create a perimeter that keeps everybody safe.”

Mr Clark added that policy changes regarding how athletes interact with their friends and family during events may also come as a result of the 6 January incident.

“Things have to change. We just can’t expose them,” he said. “We’re looking at some policy changes that will give parents access at a different location to their daughters.”

Ms Dunne was not competing at the event in question due to a labrum issue. But a group of male fans in the arena chanted her name and held up signs for her throughout the event, even as other athletes were competing.

Following the conclusion of the match, which Utah narrowly won, a group of predominantly young male fans waited outside the arena for Ms Dunne to emerge — yelling at other gymnists who were not her. The scene became intense enough that LSU moved its team bus to avoid the fans, which police officers positioned to prevent the fans from getting to the team.

Star athletes are often met by fans in and around stadiums, but the gender and age dynamics at play on Friday night, along with the specific sport in question, are somewhat atypical. Ms Dunne spoke out about the situation after the meet — thanking fans for their support but urging them to rein in their enthusiasm.

“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,” Ms Dunne wrote on Twitter.

The situation attracted a significant amount of attention in the American gynmastics community, with a number of former athletes and media personalities weighing in on the situation. Former Olympic medalist and broadcaster Samantha Peszek called the scene “scary and disturbing and cringey,” and said she was embarassed for the young men in a tweet.

Kathy Johnson Clarke, who was also at the arena, expressed similar sentiments.

“I was walking out just behind you, Sam, and they were screaming to me, “Are you Livvy’s mom? Are you Livvy’s mom?” Very disturbing,” Ms Clark tweeted. “Creepy, actually.”

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