Vincent Zhou is the youngest athlete on the American team at the 2018 Winter Olympics. At only 17, he is a figure skater whose family has sacrificed greatly for his Olympic dreams, with his mother giving up a job in Silicon Valley to help her son as he trains.
According to TeamUSA, “Zhou, the reigning junior world champion, was a silver medalist at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships to start 2017.” Now, he’s trying for Olympic gold. He’s also, in the words of TeamUSA, a poet, and he hasn’t been shy about expressing his emotions in writing, once penning a Twitter letter about the challenges he’s faced.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zhou’s Parents Are Chinese Immigrants
Both of Vincent Zhou’s parents moved to the U.S. from Beijing. “And he speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, having attended Chinese school every Sunday afternoon until age 12,” reported Cosmopolitan.
“Throughout my childhood, [my parents] educated me beyond the regular U.S. education system; in 2nd grade I was learning from 6th grade Singaporean math textbooks,” Vincent told Cosmopolitan.com. Then, joking, he added: “The way that Asian-Americans are brought up, we often go to very competitive high schools and end up in Ivy League colleges… if we can’t do that, we’re disowned.”
He praised his mother on Instagram. “Happy mother’s day to the most hardworking, dedicated woman I know. She’s made countless sacrifices for both my sister and I and has guided me along the journey to success and more, and I look forward to continuing that journey with her,” he wrote.
Vincent Zhou was born on October 25, 2000. He is from Palo Alto, California.
2. His Mother, Fay Ge, Was a Computer Scientist Who Quit Her Job for Her Son’s Career
Vincent’s mother left a promising career in Silicon Valley for his skating aspirations. In an interview with the Mercury News, Vincent described the sacrifices his family has made for his career. He said that his mother, whose name is Fay Ge, had given up her career as a computer scientist to accompany Vincent to training locations. “They drove home to Palo Alto to spend weekends with Zhou’s father and sister,” the newspaper reported.
According to The Orange County Register, “Ge was a key player in developing Oracle’s database and holds several U.S. software patents.”
“My mom quit her job to bring me down to Southern California,” Zhou told the newspaper. “At that time I was just doing a double Schalow and double toe” jump.
“We were taking a blind leap into a hole. Not many families can afford to live apart from each other, especially when I was just 8 and I hardly understood what even was going on. Now I understand the full impact of what happened and I couldn’t be more thankful that I did take that leap of faith because without moving down there I would never have flourished into the skater I am now.”
Ge told The Orange County Register that it was a leap of faith.
“There can’t be a satisfying reward without lots of sacrifices and hard work on the journey there,” Zhou said to the newspaper. “Like the destination isn’t worth it if the journey isn’t difficult.”
3. His Sister Plays the Violin & Zhou Praised His Father For Supporting the Family
The Zhou family is a talented one, although the creativity is manifesting in different fields. According to TeamUSA, “His older sister, Vivian, is a violin player and attends MIT.”
Vincent was “serenaded to sleep each night by his sister Vivian practicing the violin,” according to The Orange County Register.
On Instagram, Zhou also recognized the contributions of his father. “Happy Father’s Day to the one who has been behind the scenes supporting my family since before I was even born. I couldn’t be where I am now without you. Thanks for everything, Dad!” he wrote.
4. Zhou Began Skating at a Friend’s Birthday Party & Went to the Public Skating Rink
As with all elite skaters, Vincent Zhou began skating at a very young age. However, he started skating by happenstance.
“Zhou was born in San Jose in 2000 and began skating at a friend’s birthday party,” TeamUSA reports. “By age 8 he was so talented that his parents decided for his mom to move with him to Southern California… then eventually to Colorado Springs. His winning scores at junior worlds last season were the highest-ever, and he can do four different quad jumps on asking: Salchow, toe, flip and Lutz.”
He has another memory about skating, though. “My earliest memory of skating was when I was 3,” he told NBC. “On a Sunday, my parents took my sister and me to the local rink in Cupertino, California, and we rented public session skates and I got on the ice. I remember standing there, afraid to move, and my dad taking my hand and taking me around the rink.”
According to TeamUSA, Zhou is shy and “introverted,” avoiding eye contact. “But he’s artistic and creative, too (hence the poetry), and says he does his best writing when he’s up late at night thinking of his goals, finding it hard to turn off his brain at times,” TeamUSA reports.
Zhou has stressed the importance of his mother’s sacrifice, especially. “From a very young age it was just me and my mom,” Zhou said. “My mom stuck with me through the years from California to Colorado Springs all over the place,” he told The Orange County Register.
5. Zhou Posted an Emotional Letter to Twitter
Thank you. #idf2017 #wegetup pic.twitter.com/0ZWM13JzgC
— Vincent Zhou (@govincentzhou) November 19, 2017
Vincent Zhou has not been shy to express his emotions as he trained and vied for an Olympic berth. In November 2017, he posted an emotional letter to Twitter that gave insight into his feelings.
He wrote: “I am Vincent Zhou. I am young, ambitious, hungry, and motivated. But most importantly, I am still learning.”
“There are those who love me, adore me, see me as a threat, annoyance, or source of entertainment, and there are those who would rather I quit skating,” he continued. “I am sorry to those whose respect I failed to earn, those whose expectations I did not meet and those whose standards I did not satisfy.”