Vincent Zhou expects to bounce back at Skate America

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Despite a “difficult summer” of dealing with a recurring back problem, Vincent Zhou believes he’s ready to perform at Skate America this weekend in Everett, Wash.

He spent the off-season healing his back; it was the same injury that plagued him at the 2018 World Championships in Milan in March. He was third after the short, but fell three times in the free skate and plummeted to 14th overall. Compare that to the PyeongChang Olympics, where finished sixth overall.

And month ago, he finished fourth overall at the U.S. International Classic. He said he is now back to full strength, consistently landing all of his quads again. During a recent media teleconference, he said that he is planning “more than two” quads for the Skate America free skate, but hasn’t settled on a total. His approach to this season, he said, is that it’s not all about the jumps.

The summer also gave Zhou time to recharge, especially through participating in so many shows.

“There’s not as much pressure to land quads – there’s no pressure to land quads, unless you’re crazy and wanna do quads in shows. It was just a fun way to enjoy the sport that I love. Because so much of the time, skating gets to be about the everyday pressure and stress and ‘you have to do this, you have to win.’

“Doing shows this summer has definitely helped me get a little more comfortable with engaging with the audience. I’m still nowhere near good enough but I do my best. I’m working on choreography every day and it’s helping me to learn more aesthetic ways to engage with the audience. The transition from junior to senior involves learning how to actually keep your skating interesting, as opposed to throwing an arm towards the crowd and looking at them just to say you engaged with them. So, like I said, still got a long way to go. We’re working on all aspects of my skating.”

It’s a good reminder that the Olympic year was Zhou’s first season as a senior. He’s focused on the big picture, including the next Winter Olympics, Beijing 2022.

“You don’t see Asian-themed programs too much,” he said of his free skate music choice to skate to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “I thought it would be good. It has appeal, too because a lot of the skating community is Asian and if I can do something that they can sort of relate to, then win-win. Nothing is certain but because the 2022 Olympics are in Beijing, and I might be going for hopefully the gold in those Olympics, I want to start understanding what it’s like to that type of music at a high level.”

He’s taken a few Kung fu lessons, too, so he can “understand the position a little better, because I know that a lot of Western ideas of Asian martial arts are just like, ‘okay, here’s a cool flexed hand position.’ I wanted to learn the foundation of how to move in a more accurate way.”

The men’s short program is Friday.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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