Vincent Zhou first landed a quadruple jump – four revolutions in the air before touching back down – when he was 14 years old. Now 17, he’s eyeing his first Olympic berth. In order to get to PyeongChang, he’s planning to do five quads in his free skate at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California (Jan. 3-7).
Zhou had a breakout season last year, where he competed on the Junior Grand Prix Circuit. He finished on the podium at both assignments, picking up a silver in Japan and a bronze in Estonia. At U.S. nationals, he competed on the senior level and finished with a silver medal. Zhou was second only to quad phenom Nathan Chen, whom he calls a rival.
“Since I was little, I always looked at his skating as exemplary, and over the years I am slowly closing the gap,” Zhou said of Chen. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw both our names on the competitors’ list at the same competition. Now, it’s a friendly rivalry that I look forward to continuing through the next few years.”
At nationals in 2017, Chen became the first man ever to do five quads in a free skate. After nationals, Zhou was sent to the 2017 World Junior Championships, where he came away with the gold medal.
His first full season as a senior – hard enough for any skater – just happens to be an Olympic year. He said in a recent media teleconference that the biggest challenges are the expectations and being compared to the top skaters in the world.
“I know that I’m able to do all the quads that everyone else can do, that’s the reason I’m compared with other people who can do the quads, who are the top skaters in the world,” Zhou said. “But my artistry, my performance, my component scores have yet to catch up. It’s hard trying to balance the two, especially in my first year season, also this being an Olympic year. I know I’m one of the contenders for the Olympic team – that’s a lot to handle!”
Zhou struggled on the (senior) Grand Prix circuit, managing a fourth place finish at Cup of China but falling to ninth at Internationaux de France. In France, Zhou said he planned six quads, but lacked confidence. The most logical step for him is to try five, he said.
Plus, with U.S. Championships practically in his hometown, Zhou said he’s ready to focus on himself and compete.
“I think that it’s going to be wonderful competing there [in San Jose],” Zhou said. “I know that I don’t train there very much, but I still have a connection to the Bay Area. My father still lives there, he works there. I think that there’s going to be a cheering section that my mother is involved with organizing, for both the events, the short and the long. I’m very excited about the support that I will have there. But in the end, it’s really all about me. It’s not about who’s watching or where I’m skating.”
Plus, the last time nationals was held in San Jose, a then-12-year-old Zhou won the novice national title.