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U.S. skater Vincent Zhou drops out of Olympics after his 2nd COVID test is positive

Vincent Zhou won a silver medal in the figure skating team event. But he's been knocked out of the competition for a men's individual medal after twice testing positive for COVID-19.
Matthew Stockman
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Vincent Zhou won a silver medal in the figure skating team event. But he's been knocked out of the competition for a men's individual medal after twice testing positive for COVID-19.

Updated February 7, 2022 at 2:02 PM ET

U.S. figure skater Vincent Zhou won't get a chance to compete for an individual medal at the Beijing Winter Olympics, after a second test came back positive for COVID-19.

Zhou had been slated to compete in the men's short program, which begins Tuesday. But he tested positive in a regular COVID-19 screening — a result that was confirmed Monday by a second test.

Zhou, 21, announced the end of his 2022 Olympic campaign in an emotional video posted to Instagram.

"It seems pretty unreal" to test positive for the coronavirus, Zhou said. "I have been doing everything in my power to stay free of COVID since the start of the pandemic," he added, citing the isolation and loneliness he's endured.

"The enormity of the situation, the — just the pain of it all, is pretty insane," he said.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Vincent Zhou (@govincentzhou)

In his tearful statement, Zhou tried to draw encouragement and perspective from what a younger version of himself might think.

"Little 8-year-old you would be asking 21-year-old you for photos and autographs and everything," he said. "And you know why? Because you lived out your dreams. You became the person you always aspired to be."

"We are so proud of Olympic silver medalist @govincentzhou," U.S. Figure Skating tweeted. "Wishing you a speedy recovery."

Zhou competed on Sunday in the team event as a substitute for three-time world champion Nathan Chen. His third-place finish in the men's free skate helped the U.S. secure the silver medal in the team event — its best showing ever in that discipline.

The team result promised to give Zhou momentum heading into the individual competition. But his status became uncertain after the first positive test. Under Beijing organizers' quarantine procedures, athletes who test positive for COVID-19 must remain in isolation until they test negative on two consecutive PCR tests.

"While it was always my dream to medal on an Olympic stage — which I did accomplish before this happened — the over-arching dream was just to skate," Zhou said. "If I didn't love this, I wouldn't still be doing it. I know I love this. That passion goes a long way."

In the individual competition, Zhou came to Beijing hoping to improve on his sixth-place finish in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He said he now hopes to help represent Team USA at the World Figure Skating Championships, which begin in March.

Despite the disappointment, Zhou will leave China with a silver medal in hand — a positive note for which he said he is thankful.

"I am extremely honored and grateful and humbled to call myself an Olympic silver medalist," he said, thanking his fellow figure skaters on Team USA.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.