By Karen Rosen | Feb. 10, 2019, 3:59 a.m. (ET)
Vincent Zhou poses for a photo on the men's podium at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships on Feb. 9, 2019 in Anaheim, Calif.

 

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Vincent Zhou put a positive spin on his performance at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Saturday night.

“I think it’s a good thing that I wasn’t perfect at this competition,” Zhou said, “because if I were perfect then I wouldn’t have anywhere to go for worlds.”

The 18-year-old won the bronze medal after coming into the free skate ranked first in the short program.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan was finally No. 1 at Four Continents. In the last five years, his progression at the event has been fifth, fourth, third, second and finally first, pulling himself up from fourth after the short.

Despite an ankle injury, Uno set a new world record in the free skate in the first season under the new scoring system with 197.36 points for a total score of 289.12.

Boyang Jin of China, the defending gold medalist at Four Continents, was second with 273.51 points, followed by Zhou at 272.22.

Jason Brown of Team USA was fifth with 258.89 points and Tomoki Hiwatashi had the best program of his career to finish eighth at his first senior international competition. Both received standing ovations at the Honda Center.

Most of them will meet again in Saitama, Japan, in March, along with reigning world champion Nathan Chen of Team USA and Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.

Chen opted to sit out Four Continents to concentrate on his studies as a freshman at Yale University while Hanyu has missed some competitions due to injury.

Zhou said that while he wasn’t satisfied with his performance, he was proud of the way he skated his “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” program and of the improvements he’s made since winning the silver medal at nationals.

“It’s obviously a great feeling making the podium at a major international and that was kind of the goal coming in here,” said Zhou, who scored a season-best 172.04 in the free skate.

He knows he's a “marked man” when it comes to the judging. Zhou has developed a reputation for under-rotation, and the judges scrutinize his jumps to the “nth” degree, something they don’t do for every skater. They often flag Zhou's jumps for further review.

While he had no issues with any of his jumps in the short program, in the free skate he was marked down on three of his jumps, including two of his three quadruples.

“I’ve pretty much accepted that they’re going to do that to me now,” Zhou said.

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He’s put a positive spin on that, too. “What I do is think about, ‘Now I have to prove to myself and prove to them.’ I need to make it clear to them there’s no question.”

Even a fan tweeted, “Show them that your quads are rotated.”

“The more I show myself to be consistent, I guess the less unsure scrutiny I’ll get,” Zhou said. “But that’ll take a lot of hard work on my side and not just blaming others for giving me bad calls. It’s like I have to think about, ‘What can I do better?’ And that’s something I’ve been doing a lot of in this latter half of the season.”

Team USA medaled in the men’s event for the third straight year. Chen won the gold in 2017 and Brown took the bronze last year.

Brown actually placed fourth in the free skate – ahead of Zhou – with a season-best 172.32 to a Simon and Garfunkel medley.

“Every single competition I’ve gone to, I’ve just gotten stronger and stronger,” Brown said. “I’m not where I’d like to be in the long run, but that being said I’m just super, super proud of each step that I’m making this season and hopefully continue on making into the next four years.”

Brown has struggled with putting a consistent quad in his program and although his quad salchow wasn’t clean, a beaming Brown said, “No, but I rotated! I know it wasn’t rotated cleanly, but you know what? I did three double sals at the beginning of the season, each competition, so to at least go out there it’s a step forward.”

Hiwatashi said he enjoyed himself while skating his “Fate of the Gods” program.

“I just think that it was the best thing I could have ever done,” he said. “I just felt myself getting really energetic and I was excited at the very end, too. I had a great time on the ice.”

Hiwatashi, 19, will go on to junior worlds. “I’ll just try to kind of get myself to kind of calm down, get back to normal training again and make sure I don’t get overexcited with what I just did,” he said.

Zhou, who is a few months younger than Hiwatashi, will join Chen and Brown at senior worlds. He’ll try to make up for his 14th-place finish last year and has aspirations of making the podium.

“I’m very proud of my teammates and I’m glad to call them my teammates,” Zhou said. “But hopefully this time I’ll be out there making my case.”