Vincent Zhou (USA) at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Who would have guessed that a kids’ birthday party would lead Vincent Zhou (USA) into a successful figure skating career. When he was around five and a half, Vincent attended the party of a friend at a local ice rink. He had so much fun that his mother decided to register him for group lessons. “But in group lessons I would just skate around while all the other kids were crying by the boards – afraid to skate. I wouldn’t listen to the instructors so my mum, after a couple of months, found a coach who was willing to give me private lessons and that’s how my skating career started,” the now 18-year-old skater said.
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Happy mother's day to the most hardworking, dedicated woman I know. She's made countless sacrifices for both my sister and I and has guided me along the journey to success and more, and I look forward to continuing that journey with her. Also, I had a wonderful time at @starsonice and I can't wait to perform again! Thank you @davidbaden for guiding me into my first SOI experience--I'm ready for more! P.S. My hat in this photo is going to be the new fad of 2017. Prepare yourselves.
Vincent got hooked to skating right away. “It was just so much fun! Gliding around on the ice. Trying to find your balance. Doing cool things. There’s lots to do and a very extensive learning curve and that gave me lots of motivation. Once I have achieved one thing there’s always the next and the next. Even now I have more to try so it always keeps me motivated,” he explained.
The Chinese-American skater, who is fluent in Mandarin, watched Evan Lysacek (USA) winning the Olympic title in 2010 and also watched videos of other Olympic performances before that. The Olympic Games became a goal for him very early while he was growing up. “I was always inspired to try and make the Olympic team and skate like that one day. I always envisioned myself doing that in the future but I didn’t know if it would be possible at all. But I just kept on trying harder things and getting better. I had a natural talent for picking up on things and learning and making connections. So with that talent and lots of hard work I managed to make it to the National level – I started competing at Nationals in 2009 in Juvenile – then I won the Intermediate, Novice and Junior titles. I think it was around that time when I started to realise that I actually have potential for the future,” he recalled.
Zhou had success as a junior and placed fifth in his debut at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2016 – two years before the Olympic Winter Games 2018. “When I really started to feel like my Olympic dream had hope was when I landed my quad Lutz which was in the summer of 2016. I wanted to try it but I thought my coach [Tammy Gambill] would get mad at me if I tried it so I waited until she was gone and then I tried it and then landed it on my third try,” the skater shared. The quad Lutz and other difficult jumps eventually helped Vincent to make the Olympic team and he finished a very respectable sixth in PyeongChang.
However, at first his long-time coach Tammy Gambill didn’t want her student to train the quad Lutz because she was afraid he would get injured. In fact, Zhou’s career almost ended early in 2014 as he struggled with injury and had knee surgery. He even stopped and sat out the complete 2014/15 season.
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Took a fall backstage during the Long Island show and injured my knee so I won't be able to perform with Stars On Ice this weekend and possibly next. We'll see. I'm really sorry for those of you who were hoping to see me???? I'm doing my best to heal up and return for the last few weekends of Stars! Meanwhile, during my off time, I'm remaining productive with very important things????
He came back more or less by chance. “There was definitely a period where I was pretty much done skating. I remember one day one of my old skating friends was like: ’Hey, do you want to come and skate a public session at this random rink? Nobody’s going to be there. Nobody cares.’ I was like: ‘Why not?’ So, I just got back on the ice and it felt really weird after not skating for a long time,” he shared.
Vincent Zhou (USA) at the ISU World Figure Skating Championsips 2016©International Skating Union (ISU)
It was like a new beginning for Zhou, he had to start from scratch. “When I finally came back, I had to rely on my natural talent and my perseverance for achieving the next step; the next checkpoint on the learning curve and kind of had to re-learn everything. But, in the end, I got everything back and my skating progressed beyond what I ever thought I would ever accomplish. At the time, I had no idea that this would happen but now I am so grateful that I made it to come back to skating because, without that decision, I’ve no idea what I would be doing.”
Vincent, who enjoys reading science-fiction literature, became known as a skater who does multiple quadruple jumps – he has landed Lutz, flip, Salchow and toeloop – but he knows how difficult it is to balance the training of these elements and staying healthy. “It’s difficult because once you start trying it [hard jumps] you want to just keep going and going until you do it. Especially when doing multiple different types of quads for me like Sal, toe, Lutz, flip and other people who can do multiple types of quads. You can only do a couple of each,” he explained. “It’s different from somebody who is only doing one type of quad like, say somebody can only do a quad toe, so they can practice it more. For me I have to practice: Sal, toe – all the quads. So that really limits the number of quads that I can do. Experimenting with new things is risky for the body and I have to compartmentalise my sessions a little better like get my work on, say, Sal and toe done on an earlier session and then on the next session go to the whatever crazy thing I’m trying to do and just focus on that. When my body is ready to stop then I listen to it. There have been countless instances where the body is protesting but skaters just keep pushing through and they get hurt as a result. So you have to be careful,” Vincent pointed out. Together with his team, he wants to make sure that the training this summer will be productive and at the same time he will not get injured like in the past. “It will take lots of proactive injury prevention countermeasures: that’s warming up in the right way; not overtraining on the ice; managing sleep; managing on-ice and off-ice work. It’s lots of factors that go into maintaining health.”
In the post-Olympic season, Vincent’s approach to skating changed a bit which eventually led to his success. He claimed the bronze medal at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and then another bronze at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. “In the latter half of the season I got my injuries figured out. Basically, I got my legs underneath myself and I was able to truly start working in a smarter fashion and taking my skating in a direction that I wanted to go. Last season there was a huge focus on quads because it was my first year competing in seniors internationally. So, the only way that I could possibly get points and make the Olympic team was doing quads so I knew I had to and it ended up working,” he observed.
Vincent Zhou (USA) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2019©Interantional Skating Union(ISU)
“This season [2018/19] I wanted most of my work to be more on the actual skating instead of hammering away at the quads. But, I had some difficulty communicating and getting everyone to understand what I wanted. In the end I had to take control of my own skating and be like: ‘You know, this is how I want to train. This is how I want to do things. This is the direction I want my skating to go.’ To a certain extent: it’s worked. It’s manifested in better results from every competition: Nationals to Four Continents to Worlds to Team Trophy – I’ve improved. Every performance has gotten better and better.
Vincent Zhou (USA) with Coaches Tammy Gambill and Tom Zakrajsek at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
That’s the result of self-driven hard work on both my jumps, with help from my coaches [Gambill and Tom Zakrajsek], and on skating and choreography and movement, which has been more of my own direction of expansions. So I hope to continue that into next season.”
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Oh. My. God. Did that really happen? Am I dreaming? This is more than I could have hoped for and I am so humbled to share the podium with these two incredible men. It's such a rewarding feeling for the countless hours of hard work and frustration that people don't see to pay off, and boy am I grateful for that feeling to return. I'm also thankful for my supporters, family, coaching team, and friends back home. Additionally, the volunteers and audience here in Saitama were so kind and polite. For that, thank you so much. You all have a place in my heart!!! Now, it's time to start working on expanding my performance qualities for next season. See you at the gala, and wherever luck may find you next. Thank you again ~ ありがとうございました ~ 谢谢！！！
Vincent right now is exactly where he wants to be – competing at the highest level. “The people I am competing with now, those are people that I once dreamed of competing against. I looked up to them as role models and idols. So now, it’s crazy to be competing with them and making my name known up there. I’m living my dream,” he said.
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I skate simply because I love skating. I love being free. The value of skating to the individual is so often defaced by outside influences--and so my next task is to find myself again. Success is another entity whose value is spoiled by arbitrary definition. True success will only be achieved when I reach inner peace. Until then, I will continue my infinite struggle for self-betterment.