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‘I Have Followed the Rules’: US Figure Skater Vincent Zhou Barred From Olympics Closing Ceremony Despite Multiple Negative COVID-19 Tests

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: February 21, 2022
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 06: Vincent Zhou of Team United States skates during the Men's Single Skating Free Skating Team Event on day two of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 06, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

As the Beijing Winter Olympics come to a close, more athletes are speaking out about this year’s Games being “sadder, quieter and scarier,” in part due to the Chinese regime’s stringent “Zero-COVID” protocols and growing scrutiny over China’s human rights record.

This was certainly the case for American figure skater Vincent Zhou after he was banned from attending the Game’s closing ceremony, despite testing negative for the virus over a dozen times.

The 21-year-old skater from California was forced to miss the men’s singles event after first testing positive for COVID-19 in early February. After recovering, emerging from quarantine and participating in Sunday’s figure skating gala, Zhou revealed in an Instagram post that he had been classified as a “close contact” and told just before he was to board the bus to the ceremony that he would not be allowed to attend the event.

“I have tested negative 14 times in a row,” Zhou’s post said. “I have antibodies and am not contagious whatsoever. I am 100% healthy and normal. I am double-masked and would be walking outdoors with the same people I am about to travel with in a couple [of] hours. Out of everyone marching, I would be the least at risk of transmitting to others.”

Reports have also surfaced where athletes have complained of poor conditions while quarantining under the Chinese authorities’ high-intensity COVID measures.

Some athletes also reported not receiving “nearly enough food to keep them in competitive condition,” and were given a glimpse of the treatment many Chinese people have endured amidst the regime’s attempts to win a “people’s war” against the pandemic.

In addition, all foreigners attending the Games were segregated from the general population, being restricted to a “closed loop” Olympic village except when training, competing, or when they leave China.

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A somber Olympic journey

On Feb. 7, Zhou revealed in an emotional video posted to his Instagram account that he would not be allowed to compete in the rest of the Winter Olympics after testing positive for COVID. 

After performing a free skate to help Team USA secure a silver medal win in the figure skating team event, Zhou was not allowed to join his teammates on the podium and said he had “isolated [himself] so much that the loneliness in the last month or two has been crushing at times.”

“The enormity of the situation, just the pain of it all is pretty insane,” Zhou said in his video.

“I’ve been one of the most careful people,” he said. “I was taking lots of precautions. I tried to eat away from people and chew with my mask on… I think it’s just really unfortunate, a stroke of bad luck. I don’t know how I got it. I controlled the things I could, and sometimes bad things happen,” the young athlete said of his disappointing Olympic journey in Beijing.

The Beijing Games marked Zhou’s second Olympic journey, following his debut at the 2016 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea.