Team USA’s youngest athlete breaks old records

Team USA’s youngest athlete breaks old records

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA (WFIE) - Team USA figure skater Vincent Zhou made his Winter Games debut Thursday, and he did so by making Olympic history: twice.

"At the risk of sounding arrogant, I'm special," Zhou said.

The 17-year-old, and also the youngest athlete on Team USA, started skating at a friend's birthday party when he was just 5 years old. This week, Zhou was the first American to take the ice in the men's single skate short program in Pyeongchang.

"This is what I've been dreaming about and getting no sleep over," Zhou said. "Wow, I'm really here. This is really happening."

Zhou scored a 84.53 and finished 12th heading into Friday's free skate program, behind fellow American Adam Rippon and in front of bronze medalist Nathan Chen.

"I hoped that I would have better quality in all of my jumps," Zhou said, "But for the most part, I got my job done. I can't say I'm disappointed. I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with how I skated. There are always things that can be better, but for the most part, I met my expectations."

But taking the ice as the youngest member of Team USA wasn't enough for Zhou. The first sequence of his short program etched his name in the record books for another reason.

Just seconds into his performance, Zhou became the first athlete in Olympic history to land a clean quad lutz. This jump is considered to be one of the hardest jumps performed by skaters.

"I always expect the best out of myself when I skate," Zhou said. "And if I don't meet my expectations, then I always find myself extremely disappointed."

Zhou said he doesn't let his young age affect his performance and often uses it to his advantage.

"For me, I feel like my age is just a number," Zhou said. "I'm not a typical 17-year-old. I don't go to Starbucks and order the newest frappuccino. I don't spend my time vaping with friends. I feel like being 17, being the youngest member of Team USA at this Olympics, doesn't really affect what I'm here to do."

The 2018 Winter Games may be Zhou's first time in an Olympic rink, but he already owns gold hardware from the 2017 International Skating Union Junior World Championships.

"I didn't 100% know what to expect because the Olympics is so different from anything else I've ever experienced," Zhou said. "But I just try my best to stay in the moment. Ice is ice. Do your job. That's what I tried to focus on."

Zhou's focus has now turned to Friday's free skate program, concluding the men's single skate competition.

"The free skate is so much more than the short program," Zhou said. "The one mental reminder that I keep giving myself is how much I've trained this and how well I've trained it. I've done many clean free skates leading up to this. I've been practicing well here, and I'm going to try and draw on that."

Friday's men's free skate program is live on NBC at 8 p.m.

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