With four different quadruple jumps in his repertoire, Vincent Zhou is a rising star in the world of men’s skating. At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Zhou made history in the short program as the first person to land the quadruple Lutz jump in Olympic competition. He made history again in the free skate when he landed another quadruple Lutz en route to a six-place finish.
He has an impressive record of rising to the occasion and breaking records. Zhou captured U.S. titles on the intermediate, novice and junior levels—twice being the youngest skater ever to claim the title. He made his senior debut at age 15, finishing in the top 10 in the country. At 17, was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team in PyeongChang.
Diligent in his training and focused on making his mark, Zhou’s skating continues to improve and excite audiences.
He first set foot on the ice at age three and at five-and-a-half attended a friend’s skating birthday party, which led to group lessons. He happily zoomed around the rink while the other kids hung onto the boards. His mother soon found a coach for private lessons.
As an active kid, his parents let him try a variety of sports in addition to skating—soccer, swimming, tee-ball, tennis and basketball. At age eight, his parents told him to make a choice between the two sports at which he excelled, soccer and skating.
“My mom tells me I said, ‘My heart is with skating,’” Zhou recalled. “I realized then I loved it.”
Early success took him by surprise, but he appreciated that his hard work and dedication paid off. Unfortunately, he suffered a couple of significant injuries and was unable to compete during the 2013–14 and 2014–15 seasons. Undaunted and positive-thinking, he was determined to return to the sport he loves.
“I’ve always been a perfectionist; when I do something, I want to be the best at it,” Zhou said. “When I got back on the ice, I wanted to do what I could do before and get even better. I kept trying and trying until I got everything back. It’s all been uphill since.”
Even at a young age, he’s always understood that skating is a marathon not a sprint. He treats mistakes as lessons, intent on being better at the next opportunity.
Zhou’s parents are computer software engineers originally from China, where they attended the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He carries their traditions with him. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Zhou also considers humility and respect as primary character traits.
His family has sacrificed a lot for his skating. His father remains based in Northern California and his mother has traveled with him to seek out the best coaching. Now training in Southern California with Tammy Gambill, Zhou also goes to Colorado to work with Tom Zakrajsek and Christine Krall.
While the Zhou family celebrates his skating, the family also places a priority on education. Zhou’s older sister attends M.I.T. He has also shown outstanding intelligence, graduating from high school at age 16 and earning the Presidential Award for Educational Excellence. He took a gap year for the 2017–18 season to focus on Olympic preparation, but plans to attend college in the future.
“I have to manage my time well and be efficient with what I do,” Zhou said. “I want to follow in the footsteps of my family.”
Zhou is embracing a more mature look in his skating. Working with renowned choreographer David Wilson helped him fully understand and appreciate how to move to music, express new styles and utilize every aspect of performance. For the Olympic season, Zhou worked with Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion Jeffrey Buttle. They created a free skate to music from the film Moulin Rouge!
Zhou told Icenetwork.com, “"We wanted a long program with lots of character this year, and I think this is perfect. … The choreography is very meaningful.”
Despite being soft spoken, Zhou is a ferocious advocate for his sport—ready, willing and able to take on a TV sports anchor who tweeted that figure skating is not a sport. NBCOlympics.com called Zhou brilliant and bemusing. “Part of it is from all I've gone through,” he said. “I’ve gained a pretty good perspective on the world, and that helps me make appropriate and witty remarks.”
Earning a spot on the Olympic team was a dream come true. Although openly ambitious, Zhou remains modest when speaking of his achievements. While he enjoys accomplishments, he remains humble, knowing there is always room for improvement. He attributes this to his Chinese heritage.
“I want to live up to my potential. That’s really all I can ask,” Zhou said. “I already have a quad toe, quad Salchow, quad flip and quad Lutz. I have what I need; I just need to develop the consistency of my jumps. I also want to develop my maturity on the ice and my presentation, the components aspect of my skating—level four footwork and faster spins with nice positions. It’s the skaters with the whole package who end up being the greatest champions of all time.”
You can follow Vincent Zhou on Twitter @govincentzhou and Instagram @govincentzhou.
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