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Zhou wins free to take intermediate men's gold

Melnyk grabs silver; Lung gets bronze

Vincent Zhou won the short program and the free skate en route to the gold medal.
Vincent Zhou won the short program and the free skate en route to the gold medal. (Pam Crowley)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(12/18/2010) - Gold medalist Vincent Zhou interrupted our post-competition interview for the sake of sportsmanship. After earning 66.88 points for his free skate, and totaling 104.12 points overall, the 10-year-old asked if we could pause so he could cheer for fellow competitor Daniel Samohin. Zhou proceeded to throw the toy onto the ice he had brought for his friend and peer.

Samohin would go on to win the pewter medal. The silver medal belongs to Oleksiy Melnyk of the Washington Figure Skating club, while the North Jersey Figure Skating Club's Lawrence Lung takes home the bronze.

After giving Samohin a quick high-five, Zhou was free to discuss his performance that featured a pair of triple Salchows, a double Axel in combination with a double toe and a Level 3 step sequence.

"I am really happy and excited," Zhou said. "This is my first medal and I'm thrilled. I'm definitely going to go to the competitor party tonight to celebrate."

And the celebration won't stop tonight as the Peninsula Skating Club won both intermediate singles events. Zhou's wins came shortly after teammate Karen Chen won the ladies event.

"Before we left, we were told that if we both medal, the rink will throw a party for us when we get home," he explained.

While his free skate was something to talk about, Zhou was more excited to the discuss the performances theme. He skates to the music from the Pokemon soundtrack and his outfit is inspired by the film's main character, Ash, who "is 10 just like me."

Despite his obvious excitement, coach Tammy Gambill credits his balanced nature in helping him to the title.

"I'm very proud of Vincent this week," she said. "He stayed focused and really stepped up. He's a good little competitor."

They will take some time off this week before deciding what will come next for Zhou. He is hoping to move up to novice in time to compete at the 2012 U.S. Championships which will be held in his hometown of San Jose, Calif.

Melnyk was in bronze-medal position going into tonight's free skate. The 13-year-old came just shy of winning the free skate with 66.65 points while he totaled 99.89 overall.

Competing for the third time at the U.S. Junior Championships (second time as intermediate), Melnyk conceded that he was nervous to skate his Romeo and Juliet free program.

"At first, I was really stressed," he said. "By the second half of my program, after I landed my triples, I was feeling really confident."

The skate included both a triple toe and triple Salchow in addition to a double Axel and a double Axel-double toe combination.

Like Melnyk, bronze medalist Lung was thrilled with his jumps. Both he and coach Roland Burghart noted exceptional improvement in jumps and speed since a ninth-place finish last December.

"I am proud of how I did my triple Lutzs" he said. "I think my hard work paid off and I'm really happy."