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by TROY SCHWINDT He’s only 12 years old, but

Vincent Zhou knows how to com- mand a performance and give an equally entertaining interview after- ward.

Te dynamic skater from Palo

Alto, Calif., breezed past the ju- nior men’s field in Omaha with his “Casablanca” free skate that helped generate a personal-best overall score of 205.26 points. Zhou overtook Riverside, Ca-

lif., rinkmate and short-program leader Shotaro Omori, who gar- nered the silver medal with 189.25 points. Nathan Chen, the defend- ing junior titlist, captured the bronze medal with 181.31 points.

“Tat was incredible,” said Zhou, who won the U.S. interme- diate title in 2011 and the U.S. nov- ice crown in 2012. “Tat was the skate of my life and I was so happy out there.” Dressed in a black suit and

bow tie, Zhou played Rick from the classic film Casablanca. He stayed in character throughout the program, which featured eight triple jumps, two of which were in combination. Moving seamlessly across the ice, all but one of his 12 elements re- ceived positive grades of execution. (His triple Lutz-triple toe loop near the end of the program was judged underrotated.) Justin Dillon put to-

gether the dynamic program, while Cindy Stuart choreographed his short program to “Te Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Breaking the 200-point barri-

er, he said, felt fantastic. “I got 199 at regionals and I

was like, ‘What’s my problem, I can’t get over 200,’” he said. “Tis is a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very proud. I think it’s going to give me a lot of confidence in my- self.

“I loved that last triple Lutz-

triple toe,” he added. “It’s a big hur- dle for me and I’m glad I was able to get it done.” Zhou’s program and his over-

all success isn’t surprising, said his coach Tammy Gambill, who calls him a delight to coach. “He’s a little pistol and always

keeps me entertained and on my toes,” Gambill said. “He does this [free skate] on a daily basis and for him to come out and do it under this pressure, I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Zhou is usually the first to ar-

rive at the practice rink each day, ready to get to work, his coach said. “He’s there in the parking lot,

in the dark, warming up outside be- fore the rink even opens,” Gambill said.

Another one of Gambill’s star

pupils, Omori secured a 3.56-point advantage with his short program to “Misa Tango.” He started by landing a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination that generated 19.51 points. “I think landing that triple

Axel right away gave me a lot of con- fidence, but I didn’t want to let my confidence go after that,” he said. In his free skate to “Rhapsody on a Teme of Paganini,” Omori, 17, turned in another fine perfor- mance although he experienced a few bumps in the road. He fell early in the program on his triple Axel-double toe loop combination and later popped his second triple Axel.

“Actually I thought the first GOLD MEDALIST


36 MARCH 2013

one went up pretty well from my angle and I thought he had it, and he did too,” Gambill said. “Te sec- ond one he went into a bit cautious. He actually added a triple toe at the end of the program that wasn’t planned, so I was pleased that he wasn’t going to try and just hang on but was making sure to get as many





points as he could.” Chen, 13, battled the stom-

ach flu during the event and con- templated withdrawing prior to the short program, but pushed through with a pair of gutsy performances. “It (withdrawal) was in my

mind before the short program,” Chen said. “Five minutes before I was like, ‘Do I withdraw or do I go, do I withdraw or do I go.’ I’ve come so far. I’ve had such a rough season with injuries and sickness.” Coach Rafael Arutyunyan said

Chen showed the heart of a cham- pion in the face of adversity. “Sure, he was slower and weak-

er, but he went through [his pro- grams], didn’t stop, did as much as he could and I’m so proud of him.” Chen finished third in the

short program and fourth in the free skate. Jimmy Ma of New York fin-

ished third in the free skate and fourth overall with 176.09 points.


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