World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou will attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall. He’ll train in Boston, though.
He plans to live on campus, he told NBCSports.com/figure-skating, and his mother will also make the cross-country move to help him commute to practice. He could train on campus at Brown, he said, but all their ice time is taken up by hockey, and his options were limited to midnight sessions.
“My mom will be coming to help with transportation because making the hour-plus commute to training and back can and will be dangerous under fatigue and mental load,” he said.
Zhou chose Brown for its “flexible, self-directed undergrad curriculum, beautiful campus and great surroundings, and relatively short proximity to a viable training location.” He’s interested in a variety of courses, including business, economics, public policy, philosophy and psychology.
He will complete the fall semester, then take gap years or semesters until after the 2022 Olympics.
“I can return home after the fall semester ends to get some good, proper training in before the more important second half of the season starts,” Zhou said. “Subsequently, I will be able to put full focus and effort into achieving my dream of becoming 2022 Olympic champion.”
Zhou expects to get on the ice about 10 hours per week to practice, a significant reduction.
Another change will be the addition of new coach, Mie Hamada from Japan. She also coaches top Japanese skaters Satoko Miyahara and Rika Kihira.
“The search for the right coach leads almost every high-ranking skater on a national or international search — see literally every skater competing at this level,” he said of his search for the right coach. “In pursuit of a common goal, I and others seek the best guidance and support, which of course isn’t always conveniently within arm’s reach. That’s why we all have searched and moved far and wide.”
He hasn’t been specific, but Zhou still plans to work with his other coaches, too. But while at Brown, he will primarily train alone.
“I have great self-awareness, so I trust that I can figure out some things alone,” he said. “However, my coaches, including coach Hamada, will be visiting me for short periods of time when their travels and schedules permit.”
There are other models of success for skaters who train and attend Ivy League schools – two-time world champion Nathan Chen, for example.
But Zhou and Chen’s situations are different, Zhou said, because Zhou wasn’t able to select his own international competitions like Chen could as the world’s top skater. Zhou was instead assigned back-to-back Grand Prix events, in China (Nov. 8-10) and Moscow (Nov. 15-17), but he doesn’t see it as an issue.
“I will likely do a senior B [lower-level event] before my Grand Prix, and maybe a summer international soon,” he said. “Back-to-back Grand Prixs are more than I could have asked for, since separate ones would not mix well with academic catch-up and jetlag. It’s like combining errands into one trip.”
He hasn’t spoken to Chen about his schedule and ability to balance and knows “ultimately, it will be up to me to figure it out.” Zhou will be in the same boat as Karen Chen, who plans to attend Cornell in the fall.
“Under challenge is when the best rewards come out, so I’m looking forward to the growth and opportunity that is sure to come out of it all,” Zhou said. “This season will be about self-discovery.”
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