- Zhou tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 7 and spent a week in quarantine
- He missed the individual men’s competition and it was too difficult to watch
- One bright spot was hearing from friends and celebs, including Josh Groban
BEIJING – Vincent Zhou couldn’t watch as the men’s Olympic figure skating competition went on without him last week.
In isolation after a positive COVID-19 test in a hotel room somewhere in Beijing – he still isn’t exactly sure where he was, other than it was about a 30-minute drive from the Olympic Village – he kept up with the results, but that was all he could do.
“It was too emotionally difficult to actually watch it,” Zhou said on a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday after his week-long isolation ended. “Of course I wanted to see how my teammates did. I was extremely happy when both Nathan (Chen, the Olympic gold medalist) and Jason (Brown, who finished sixth) knocked it out of the park.
“It also was very difficult for me seeing the results because I knew I could have medaled. I’ve been training consistently where I could deliver well enough to pull a score like that and win the bronze medal, so definitely a very difficult day for me. But I worked through it mentally and I’m happy to be out … so I don’t really want to dwell on the negatives too much.”
Zhou, 21, helped Team USA to the silver medal (perhaps to turn into gold later pending the results of the Russian doping scandal) by skating the men’s team long program, but was robbed of the opportunity to compete in his main event when he shockingly found out he had tested positive for COVID Feb. 7.
He had been so cautious that even his teammates remarked about how they often saw him by himself.
“I think it’s true that I’ve been one of the most careful people,” he said. “Everything short of moving to Antarctica. I’ve taken lots of precautions. I tried to eat away from people. I chew with my mask on. I think it’s just really unfortunate. A stroke of bad luck. I honestly don’t know how I got it but I controlled the things that I could and sometimes bad things happen.”
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The day he won an Olympic silver medal was the day he found out he tested positive. “Definitely not easy at all. … I was not showing any symptoms certainly when I received the news of the positive test which was why it was very shocking for me. It was just kind of out of the blue.”
Time stood still. He said he thinks he was in quarantine for a week. He barely felt sick. “The worst thing was probably a sore throat and some congestion.”
He caught up with friends who reached out to him. Famous people too. He offered one name: Josh Groban. “One of the really cool ones, he’s the singer of my short program music. That was a really wholesome moment and it made me feel supported and I appreciated to know that he had seen my short program.”
Zhou worked out with his trainer through video calls, did walk-throughs of his programs and made sure to eat and sleep at the right times.
“I think I used Netflix for the first time in my whole life,” he said. What did he watch? Appropriately enough, he mentioned the documentary “Icarus,” which is about Russian doping.
“I just wanted to understand the history a little better and hopefully avoid saying anything stupid that I didn’t know about.”
He actually had something quite intelligent to offer about the Kamila Valieva doping controversy. “It definitely is a pretty shocking and scary situation we have going on here where I would understand completely if the (women skaters) didn’t exactly trust the integrity of the competition and the fairness of everything.”
Even though his event has been over for a week, he will be back on Olympic ice once more: he was invited to perform in Sunday’s skating exhibition.
“It definitely will carry more significance for me because it’s that touch on Olympic ice which I unfortunately wasn’t able to have so that does make it more meaningful.”
Next month, he will compete at the world championships in France. “In a way you could say it might be like my personal Olympics,” he said, cautioning quickly, “Don’t use that quote as a headline. It’s just kind of a you-know-how-it-is type quote.”
He will join the Stars on Ice skating tour after worlds and plans to return to his studies at Brown University in the fall. “I will not stop skating. I won’t quit skating but we’ll see how it goes.”
For now though, he’s back to being an Olympian, going to practices, living in the village, catching up on what he missed. “I am getting back into living life again.”