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Pascack Valley Daily Voice serves Emerson, Hillsdale, Montvale, Park Ridge, River Vale, Washington Township, Westwood & Woodcliff Lake

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sports

Teen Hillsdale Gymnast Swaps School For Sport

Craig Zappa stretches out ENA Paramus' elite gymnast, Olivia Dunne, 14 of Hillsdale.
Craig Zappa stretches out ENA Paramus' elite gymnast, Olivia Dunne, 14 of Hillsdale. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Dunne wows crowds on the beam.
Dunne wows crowds on the beam. Photo Credit: Instagram @livvydunne
Dunne looks over her conditioning routine at ENA Paramus.
Dunne looks over her conditioning routine at ENA Paramus. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Score: 13.400 (5.3, 8.100) June 26, 2016 - Chaifetz Arena - St. Louis, Mo.
Score: 13.400 (5.3, 8.100) June 26, 2016 - Chaifetz Arena - St. Louis, Mo. Video Credit: USA Gymnastics

PARAMUS, N.J. — Olivia Dunne kneels on a mat alone in Paramus ENA with nothing but a printout of her workout and a resistance band.

The 14-year-old Hillsdale gymnast can't do much more than visualizations, stretching and light conditioning because of a stress fracture to her right wrist.

But Livvy, as her friends call her, doesn't see her injury as a setback. It's just another hurdle that by 2020 will have made her stronger — the strongest.

"I remember in the long run what the main goal is," she said, scanning her sheet for the next series of exercises. "That's representing the U.S. in the Olympics."

Dunne is among four gymnasts in New Jersey who compete at the international level.

She's one of 34 kids under the age of 15 who qualified for the P&G National Championships in Missouri, and has since been attending National Team Camps at the USA Olympic Training Center in Texas.

Dunne makes it look easy, but coach and ENA Paramus owner Craig Zappa will tell you otherwise.

"This sport is about nothing ever being good enough," said Zappa of Ridgewood, who runs the gym with his wife, Jennifer.

"The athletes struggle alone... you have to train them in a way that doesn't break them down."

Dunne leads a much different life than most kids her age.

Instead of being dropped at school, Dunne's parents drop her at ENA. She recently made the choice to start homeschooling in order to focus on her training.

"She pretty much has an offer to any college she wants to go to," Zappa said as Dunne visualized her bar routine with a PVC pipe.

There are days Dunne misses her friends. She wonders what they're up to. Sometimes, Dunne gets lonely.

"I feel like I'm missing out," said Dunne, who manages the Pascack Valley High School gymnastics team with her older sister.

But when that happens, she'll go to a football game. And people hug her and ask her how training is going.

That reminds her that what she's doing is special. It's unique. It's something that takes passion.

Something that makes her feel lucky.

"Not a lot of people get to do this," Dunne said. "I try to cherish every moment."

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON DUNNE.

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