At just 17, Vincent Zhou is hoping to make his mark at his first Olympic Games

By Jason Duaine Hahn
February 15, 2018 02:28 PM

American figure skater Vincent Zhou has been quietly making his mark on the ice while on his way to the Winter Olympics, and the teenager says a berth at the Games is a dream come true.

Zhou, 17, showed the world he a force in the skating world after a massive showing last year, which saw him become the first junior in history to land a quadruple lutz, which blazed his path to winning the 2017 World Junior Championships, 2017 Bavarian Open championships, and earning silver at the 2017 U.S. National and bronze at the 2018 U.S. National.

All of that has helped place him on the verge of his debut appearance at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

“The Olympics is …,” Zhou told PEOPLE prior to the Games, “it’s what I’ve been dreaming of.”

The Palo Alto, California, native was introduced to the ice when he was just a toddler, and though he couldn’t do very much on the rink at the time, he didn’t shy away from it when he had a chance to lace up a pair of skates two years later.

Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty

“When I was three, my dad took me to the local ice rink to have fun, and I was on the ice — I wasn’t able to move, I could only stand there — and my dad came and held my hand and dragged me around the rink,” says Zhou, a child of Chinese immigrants. “My actual skating career didn’t start until I was 5 and a half and my friend had a birthday party. After that, my parents decided to sign me up for lessons.”

What would begin as a hobby would become something much more meaningful for Zhou.

“At first it was just another thing to do after school, somewhere else to channel my energy, but it kind of stuck with me and started getting up earlier to do it, and spending more time,” he says. “Eventually, I was sacrificing a lot just to skate.”

Zhou was named to the 2018 Olympic team in early January alongside Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon, making Zhou the youngest skater on the team. The trio joins female figure skaters Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen as members of Team USA.

The rise and grind of skating that Zhou has endured for over a decade has shown him what it takes to become great at the sport. This is work is about to put him on a world stage like none other.

“That greatly increased my appreciation and understanding of how difficult the sport really is,” Zhou says. “It helps me love it and not take it for granted.”

The Winter Olympics will air live starting Feb. 8 from Pyeongchang, South Korea. To learn more, visit Coverage will air in the U.S. on NBC.

• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON