In a five-minute video posted to Instagram on Monday night, a teary Zhou announced that he would have to withdraw. He had initially tested positive as part of a routine COVID-19 screening, and underwent additional testing.
The 21-year-old had struggled through a poor free skate for the eventual team silver medalists a day before, and was due to compete in the individual competition that begins with the men's short program on Tuesday (Monday night in the U.S.).
In the video, Zhou said he had isolated to the point of crushing loneliness over the past few months in a bid to avoid the virus. He ended on a positive note, though: “This is not the end. This is a setup for a bigger comeback."
The high-flying but wildly inconsistent 21-year-old Zhou arrived in Beijing with high hopes of contending for a medal. He finished sixth in the men’s program at the Pyeongchang Games, but his second-place finish at the NHK Trophy and victory at Skate American in his two Grand Prix assignments gave him hopes of earning a medal.
Nathan Chen and Jason Brown are still scheduled to compete in the men's short program. Chen told reporters after a final practice Monday that he hasn't really been around Zhou and any time he has, he's been wearing a mask.
In fact, Chen has been taking so much precaution that he wears his mask in the dining hall, only dipping it down to take a bit before putting it right back in place. He isn't taking any chances with what could be his final Olympics, especially given the long, four-year wait since his disappointing fifth-place finish at the Pyeongchang Games.
“I mean, you know, because it's happened — everyone is talking about it and thinking about it,” Chen said. “And hopefully that gets people involved a little bit more, being a little more careful and doing what they need to do.”
Travis Pittman contributed to this report.