In a conference call on Tue., March 15, Vincent Zhou spoke about his experiences at the 2022 Olympic Games, preparations for the World Championships and his future plans.
Coming off the Olympics has been really challenging for me. I would say one of the most challenging times in my life. I have been taking a lot of time to process things. Just trying to take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Life really wants to get me down right now, but I’m not ready to go down without a fight. So I am going into training, throwing punches right back and just trying to do my thing. But giving myself space, and allowing myself to process appropriately.
On not being able to go to the closing ceremony:
All I know is that after my CT counts reached an appropriate level, I was still supposed to follow a certain set of protocols for another seven days I believe, which I did. I stayed off public transportation; I did not go to the cafeteria. I had to have all my meals delivered to my room at the village and I was only allowed to do “essential activities,” so basically I assumed that meant going to the gala practices and whatnot.
My Olympic experience, returning from isolation, was still limited as a result of those close contact protocols. And then, I don’t remember exactly, but I think the closing ceremony was on the seventh day – or the sixth day, I don’t remember. But, either way, I would assume that marching in the closing ceremony could count as an essential activity, especially since going to a random practice that I was allowed to do that as an essential activity. So, it really made no sense that I was not allowed to march.
A small part of me expected to be stopped. We kind of anticipated there might be a problem. But they never specified what essential activities I was limited to. They just used that as a loosely defined term, I guess, to fit whatever they wanted. So I just had to listen; I just had to follow the rules, which is what I did going into isolation and following the protocols. It was unfortunate, but it happened.
Our team was all walking towards the pavilion where they did a little security check. Apparently, the color my badge scanned was not allowed to go through, so I just watched the rest of Team USA walk off without me. It was really sad.
When your pass did not clear, did you try to persuade them?
Yes. I am pretty sure I stood there for almost an hour just trying to communicate and plead and try to talk to someone who could make a decision. I was not alone. I had the USOPC security officer and my COVID liaison officer who was absolutely amazing during my entire ordeal at the Olympics. But in the end there was nothing they could do, so we just trudged back in defeat. All of us knew we did all we could. At least I did not come back bearing the guilt of ‘what if I did more.’
On the emotional highs and lows of skating in the exhibition and then not being able to march in the closing ceremony:
Honestly, after being in isolation for so long, I was just grateful to have any sort of thing. I guess while it was very disappointing that I missed the closing ceremony, I was still very grateful to have had the offer to do the gala. Like I said, it was just really fulfilling and awesome to be on the ice with all the Olympic greats. It was a huge honor to be in the gala.
Is this time “being one of the most challenging of your career” related to what happened at the Olympics?
Definitely related to my experience at the Olympics. Sometimes very difficult occurrences take weeks, months, even years to kind of kick in and process and this is definitely one of those things. Normally I am very resilient, and able to get my head back on track really quickly after things happen. I would say my experience at the Olympics hit me harder than most things. I am taking the time to process and do the right things for myself, and taking it one day at a time.
Even if I have a really hard day, I am still punching right back the next day. I am a fighter and I am not ready to go down yet.
On what has been rough in dealing with the situation since returning to the U.S.:
As hard as it has been, I definitely did not spend weeks in bed. Following my normal habits and patterns I was back on the ice in one day. It was not easy at all. I did not feel like myself. Some days I still wake up and don’t feel like myself. Some days I wake up and have a hard time going near my skates.
Sometimes I think to myself I should just try to forget about everything and just get on the ice, just go for it, take the shot. Who knows, maybe it will turn out well. Then I step on the ice and I am instantly reminded of everything that happened. So it is not easy at all.
I am still currently in the middle of things. I am definitely not out of it yet. I am taking things one day at a time. I am not ready to give up yet. I am getting on the ice every day, working toward my goals and trying to better myself. I am hoping I can bring out a spark of something at the World Championships. I know that I have it deep within me. I am a very motivated person and I don’t give up easily.
I have been talking to a lot of people – my sports psychologist who is at the USOPC, my parents, coaches and people in U.S. Figure Skating. A lot of people have reached out offering support. I consider myself lucky to have all the people around me. I am sure no one can lessen the impact of things that happened, but simply their presence is helpful.
On going to Worlds:
In a circumstance where probably 95% of other people would have already given up…it is probably better and easier for me to just not go. It would make me really proud to simply go and even if I don’t do well, at least I had the courage to train every day leading up to Worlds, get on the plane, and step on the ice on competition day. I guess I am proud to be saying that I am currently in the process of doing that.
On his commitment for Worlds:
It has definitely not been 100 percent of the time. As I said it has been an extremely difficult time for me. Taking the step and going to Worlds and giving it my best shot is already a big win for me.
With the struggles I am going through right now it may not be in the best interest of my health to go. Coming off the Olympics is always difficult, no matter whether you win or come last, or don’t compete at the Olympics. It is always a rough emotional and physical comedown coming back home.
Getting back on the ice after the Olympics is not easy. So especially for me this time, missing eight days of skating and, I would assume, being weakened in some way by that time off and also possibly by my illness. With he emotional rollercoaster and the pits I have been through the last couple of weeks have flown by.
Normally, when I make my opening statement at these teleconferences, I have a line about how I have been training well and I am feeling ready and prepared, but if I said that I would be lying. Training has not been easy. There are a lot of days where I don’t feel ready and prepared at all. But as I said many times now, I am not ready to go down without a fight.
Will there be any feeling of reward in finally getting a Team Event medal of some color?
I think it would definitely help bring some closure to my Olympic experience, which still has not ended as I am still processing it.
On post-Worlds plans and competitive future:
As far as my plan for next season, that is all up in the air. I will be going back to Brown in the fall. Now that we have the new Boston skating club, that is about an hour or so from Providence – that will be a good option for me to skate at.
On the current world situation:
There is so much that has happened recently, it is hard to even process everything that is going on. It is definitely a very unfortunate situation for a lot of people going into these Worlds. I have a friend in Colorado Springs who is a Russian-Ukrainian who is deeply personally affected by the current war. I am definitely sympathetic towards all the people who are affected by these events.