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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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More: Karen Chen withdraws from first Grand Prix assignment

IOC pledges €500,000 to help restore Notre Dame ahead of 2024 Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee plans to donate €500,000 ($562,000) to the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in the 2024 Olympic host city.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he wants to see Notre Dame restored within five years.

“The aim of completing the reconstruction in time for Paris 2024 will be an extra motivation for all of us,” IOC president Thomas Bach wrote in a Wednesday letter to Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet, according to a translation by Agence France-Presse, which reported Notre Dame is on the planned marathon and road cycling routes. “All the Olympic Movement and in particular the IOC have been extremely touched by the instantaneous connection the French have made between Notre Dame cathedral and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

More than $500 million has been pledged overall from around the globe after a fire ravaged the 850-year-old cathedral on Monday.

NBC News has more on the Notre Dame fire here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Patrick Kane joined by NHL All-Stars on world championship roster

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NHL All-Stars Jack EichelRyan Suter and Cory Schneider join previously named captain Patrick Kane to lead the U.S. at next month’s world hockey championship in Slovakia, seeking the nation’s first title at a standalone worlds since 1933.

Sixteen players were added to the roster in Thursday’s announcement with more to come before worlds open May 10 and more teams get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, making more players available. The IIHF allows up to 25 players per nation.

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill will be the U.S. head coach for a third straight worlds. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals in 2017 and earned bronze in 2018, sandwiching an Olympic quarterfinal exit in PyeongChang without NHL players.

Sweden is trying to become the first nation to three-peat at worlds since the Czech Republic in 2001.

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Preliminary IIHF World Championship Roster
Forwards

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks)
Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres)
Luke Glendening (Detroit Red Wings)
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes)
Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings)
James van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia Flyers)
Frank Vatrano (Florida Panthers)
Colin White (Ottawa Senators)

Defensemen
Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks)
Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings)
Brady Skjei (New York Rangers)
Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)

Goalies
Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks)
Cayden Primeau (Laval (AHL))
Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils)