‘Unreal’: US Figure Skater Tearfully Quits Olympics After Testing Positive for COVID

Figure skater Vincent Zhou posted a heartfelt message after he was forced to quit the Olympics.
vincent zhou figure skating covid
Vincent Zhou skates during a practice session last month ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

American figure skating hopeful Vincent Zhou has been forced to withdraw from the Beijing Winter Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19.

In an emotional video posted on Instagram, Zhou, wearing a Team USA jacket, tearfully announced the early end of his 2022 Olympic journey. He was supposed to join the men’s individual competition that began on Tuesday, along with his teammate Nathan Chen and Japan’s “ice prince” Yuzuru Hanyu.

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“It seems pretty unreal that of all the people it would happen to myself,” the 21-year-old said, adding that he had taken all the precautions to avoid catching the virus. “I’ve isolated myself so much that the loneliness that I felt in the last month or two has been crushing at times.”

Zhou also tried to cheer himself on as he recounted his path to the Beijing Olympics. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, then 17-year-old Zhou made history as the first person to land a challenging quadruple lutz jump at the Olympics, before finishing sixth. 

“I am more than just another positive COVID test,” Zhou, a Brown University undergraduate, said in the video. “To the future Vincent watching this, your younger self will be so proud of the athlete and person you’ve become now. 

“When you were young, sitting on the couch, watching those great skaters on TV, studying their jumps every night at the dinner table, and waking up at 4 a.m. or early to go into the rink and skate, and do double jumps,” Zhou said as he wiped away tears. “You had no idea what you were getting into, but you had a dream, and you followed it. You made sacrifices for it. You dedicated your life to it.”

Athletes and officials are tested for COVID-19 every day inside the Olympic bubble in Beijing, and those who test positive are required to stay at quarantine hotels or receive treatment at hospital. The patients can be discharged if they get two consecutive negative test results 24 hours apart and are displaying no symptoms.

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Nearly 400 people tested positive between Jan. 23 and Feb. 7. Some athletes have complained about poor living conditions inside isolation hotels. 

Before his positive test, Zhou was able to participate in the team figure skating competition by skating to the Chinese music “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and win a silver medal with his teammates. 

“I have already lost count of the number of times I’ve cried today, but I’m happy to say that at least one of those times was happy tears, that was when I found out that I became an Olympic silver medalist,” he said. 

Fellow figure skating stars and fans have expressed support in the comment section. 

“You are so admired & appreciated Vincent,” said former Olympian Johnny Weir. “Hold your head high.”

“Keep your head held high and get better quickly,” wrote figure skating star Michelle Kwan. “You’ve accomplished so much already and I can’t wait to continue to cheer you on for the years to come.” 

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.