American men’s figure skater Vincent Zhou tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and is unable to compete in the men's singles competition, which begins Tuesday morning in Beijing (Monday night in the United States).
Zhou tested positive after his daily screening on Sunday, the same day he performed a free skate routine to help the United States win a silver medal in the team competition. He underwent additional testing, hoping to produce a negative result and compete, US Skating said in a statement. On Monday morning in the U.S. he released an emotional video on Instagram announcing his withdrawal.
The 21-year-old Brown University student is in his second Olympics. While he was not considered a medal favorite in the individual competition, he is a popular and talented competitor who certainly could have risen to the occasion.
"It seems pretty unreal that of all the people it would happen to myself, and that's not just because I'm still processing this turn of events but also because I have been doing everything in my power to stay free of COVID since the start of the pandemic," Zhou said in the video. "I've taken all the precautions I can. I've isolated myself so much that the loneliness I felt in the last month or two has been crushing at times."
Zhou, of Palo Alto, California, was not present at the medal ceremony for the team competition. As such, he was unable to receive his silver medal, which would be his first, and potentially, only Olympic medal of his career.
Under Olympic protocols, Zhou would have been taken immediately to one of the infamous “isolation centers” that have yielded intense complaints from athletes and officials for the substandard food, small, dirty rooms and lack of internet access.
The IOC and the Beijing Organizing Committee have vowed to fix the problems, but there is no telling what Zhou is dealing with, which could impact him physically and mentally if he does get out in time to skate.
Also of issue is the Olympics close contract tracing and whether Zhou, if he is indeed positive, could have spread the virus to any of his teammates. Zhou was around nearly the entire United States skating team — men, women, pairs and ice dance, at the competition Sunday. There are other interactions in the Olympic Village, training and dining.
That could include Nathan Chen, the three-time world champion who is favored to win the individual gold medal here. His closest competition are two Russians.
Zhou said Sunday that he was looking forward to the individual competition and saw his performance in the team competition, where he was good, but not great, as an opportunity to get some nerves and rust out of his system.
“There were obviously some things I can improve on,” he said. “But it’s a good way for me to get ‘in my knees’ a little before the individual event starts [on Tuesday.]”
Now his Olympic future rests on further testing with limited time to sort things out as all of U.S. Skating holds its breath that a bad story doesn’t become an even worse.