U.S. Olympic figure skater Vincent Zhou withdrew from the men's singles competition on Monday after testing positive for COVID-19. He made the announcement in an emotional Instagram video posted less than a day before the start of the event.
A two-time Olympian, Zhou was expected to contend for a medal alongside six-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen and two-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
"I have tested positive for COVID-19 and unfortunately I will have to withdraw from the individual event starting tomorrow," he said. "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. 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, 21, had competed in the men's free skate portion of the team competition Sunday morning Beijing time and cheered on his teammates from the team box. Team USA won a silver medal minutes before the news of Zhou's positive test was released. He was conspicuously absent from the celebrations, and his teammates told the press they'd filmed a video wishing him well.
In his own video, Zhou said that team silver helped him achieve his dream of medaling at the Olympics even if he is unable to compete in the singles event. He thanked his teammates for helping make that dream come true.
"I've already lost count of the number of times I've cried today," he said. "But I'm happy to say that at least one of those times was happy tears, and that was when I found out that I became an Olympic silver medalist."
Through tears, Zhou spoke to his younger self and encouraged himself to be proud of his accomplishments despite this setback. "To the future Vincent watching this, your younger self would be so proud of the athlete and person you've become now," he said. "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 earlier to go into the rink and skate and do double jumps, you had no idea what you were getting into. But you had a dream, and you followed it."
Zhou hopes to compete at the World Championships in March and plans to return to Brown University in the fall. He has not ruled out returning for a third Olympic cycle and toward the conclusion of his video said this was not the end of his career.
"This is not the end," he said. "This is a setup for a bigger comeback."