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It is little wonder Vincent Zhou (USA) was momentarily paralyzed when asked on the latest edition of The Ice Skating Podcast – available to listen to now – to share how he is feeling.

The 21-year-old Figure Skater has not so much been on a rollercoaster for the past two months, rather he has been strapped to an out-of-control space rocket that had no idea which way was up and which down.

But, having won Olympic silver in the team event on 7 February, Zhou was ruled out of the men’s competition in Beijing (CHN) due to a positive Covid-19 test. In a single moment the only man to beat eventual champion Nathan Chen (USA) in the four years leading up to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games lost everything he had been working for.

The devastation was all-encompassing yet somehow, just six weeks later, a still visibly shell-shocked Zhou defied every expectation to claim a World Championships bronze medal.

“I don’t think I can do it justice with words,” says Zhou, who shares his full story during an in-depth interview on the ISU’s Ice Skating Podcast.

“Objectively speaking they weren’t the best skates (his Short and Free Programs at the 2022 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Montpellier (FRA)) but given what I was going through, given the fact I couldn’t even get through a program a couple of days earlier, before I left for France, I would classify winning a World medal with any sort of skate a miracle.”

When you listen to the description of what took place inside and out from the time Zhou got the dreaded news in Beijing to the moment he stepped on the ice in Montpellier (FRA), a miracle seems an entirely apt description.

Zhou, who claimed gold at the ISU Grand Prix Guaranteed Rate Skate America 2021, ahead of Chen in third place, describes his week in isolation in Beijing (CHN) as “a glaring block of time in my memory that should not be there”. Once the Games were underway, he was the only Team USA member in any sport to be denied the opportunity to compete because of a positive Covid-19 test.

No wonder therefore that “almost every single day” of those two weeks after the Games it was challenging for Zhou to “get up” let alone get on the ice.  

Just about everyone thought that the season, at the very least, was gone for the man who finished sixth as a 17-year-old on his Olympic debut at the PyeongChang 2018 Games. His parents had even started booking a family holiday to coincide with the looming World Championships.

But one thing kept Zhou from changing his skates for his swimming trunks.

“It was the singular thought that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with the regret that I didn’t try,” he reveals. “That’s literally the only thought that made me go to France.”

The extraordinary additional layer to such a decision was that Zhou still does not know how he would have coped if “Worlds had turned out to be a disaster”.

Thankfully his tale did have a happy ending. Freed by the “winning feeling” of having just made it to the French ice, some of the “magic” returned and Zhou, to rapturous applause, finished just behind Japan’s gold and silver medal-winning stars, Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama

Check out the podcast for the full story and to hear Zhou’s ongoing recovery plan, plus how he is finally learning to appreciate life off the ice as much as on it. The amiable star even talks about his much-queried future plans…

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