Golden Skate

Farris to debut as senior at U.S. Nationals

USA's Joshua Farris performs his Short Program at the 2010-11 Junior Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating.

After the hoopla of an Olympic season, the skating community begins to look at the next generation of athletes to try to predict who will become the next big star. One such skater is American up-and-comer, Joshua Farris, who calls Colorado Springs, Colo., home.

Farris is one of a handful of young men who is making a huge impression on the international skating scene this season, and his successes have already surpassed many a skating resume.

Colorado Springs, Colo., is synonymous with breath-taking natural attractions like the picturesque Garden of the Gods Park and majestic presence of Pike’s Peak. The city is also home to the United States Olympic Training Center, the United States Air Force Academy, and Baseball Hall of Fame’s Goose Gossage. And then there is this little thing called the Broadmoor Skating Club.

The Broadmoor Skating Club was established back in the 1930s, and has a rich history of creating champions. Olympic champion Peggy Fleming trained on the ice in Colorado Springs, as did Team USA’s first Olympics dance medalists Colleen O’Connor and Jim Millns. More recently, the names Jeremy Abbott, Ryan Bradley, and Rachael Flatt have been associated with the Broadmoor Skating Club.

Farris, who just turned sixteen years-old on Thursday, has already assembled quite an impressive resume of medals in his budding skating career. In 2006, the Renton, Wash., native won his first US title- on the juvenile level at the US Junior Championships. Two years later, he achieved the same success on the intermediate level.

In his first trip to the U.S. Championships in 2009, the high school sophomore easily won the novice men’s title in Cleveland, Ohio, making him one of a handful of skaters who have won all three titles. Last season, Farris attempted to make the daunting leap to the top of the junior men’s podium at the U.S. Championships, but settled for silver in one of the closest competitions in event history.

The home-schooled high school student has taken the big leap up to the senior level this season, and will compete in his first U.S. Championships as a senior later this month. But to get to Greensboro, NC, Farris has had to travel the world.

“I was selected to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit for the second year in a row,” Farris said proudly. “I love representing the United States in international competitions, and this season with a year of experience under my belt, I knew that I wanted to be more successful.”

“Because I was second in juniors at Nationals last year, I didn’t really feel like there was much more for me to accomplish on that level, so I chose to move up,” he continued. “The biggest difference between the levels is power, and I have been really working to improve that about my skating since I have been told that I skate slow sometimes. I’m working on my posture, knee bend, and just being more mature. Though my age doesn’t lend itself to creating that kind of impression, I am making the best of it.”

Last season, Farris finished in a respectable fourth and fifth place in his two Junior Grand Prix events. As a veteran of the circuit, the U.S. Junior silver medalist knew what it would take to move up in the standings at his assigned events.

“I was injured last season, so it was tough both mentally and physically to get through the competitions,” Farris explained. “This season everything feels right again, and it has given me confidence that I need to improve.”

Farris was first assigned to skate in Romania, the second event of the season, and took the lead with an impressive short program included a beautiful triple Axel. In the freeskate, however, Farris faltered somewhat, and ended up settling for silver behind his American teammate Keegan Messing.

“In Romania, I was happy about what I was able to do there with a personal best in the short, but the long was disappointing,” confessed the high school student. “I have to thank my coach for helping me get a medal. He puts us in pressure situations at home all the time so that we are ready for competitions. Every Friday night, we have mock competitions with specific goals to accomplish that if we do, we earn a certain (mock) placement. It has really helped me mentally.”

Ambitious and determined, Farris headed to Great Britain with a fire in his belly and a goal of making dramatic improvements.

“After Romania, I was very determined to fix the long,” Farris admitted, “but in England, I kind of did the reverse of what I did in Romania. The long was much improved, but the short, even though I didn’t fall, was shaky. I came away with a personal best in the freeskate, which was really exciting, but I still felt like there was more that I could do.”

Winning the title not only earned Farris the first international title of his career, but also qualified him for one of the eight spots in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing in December. In earning the invitation, Farris also earned a bye into the U.S. Championships, exempting him from qualifying competitions leading into the 2011 Championships.

As the Final approached, Farris admitted to being well-prepared and had strong opinions about what his game plan would be.

“I want to skate two clean programs, but more importantly strong programs,” Farris said before the competition. “I don’t want anything shaky. I’m not nervous about the competition. I just want to do the best that I can.”

In Beijing, Farris opened the competition with a strong short program. Though he made an error on his triple loop and finished in fourth place, Farris was well within striking distance of the podium. In the freeskate, however, the finalist had perhaps his most challenging performance of the season, making multiple jump errors that relegated him to a disappointing sixth place overall.

“Overall it was a good experience,” remembered the optimistic Farris. “No, I didn’t have the performance that I would have liked to have had; but I learned a lot. I was able to watch and learn from the senior competitors. I learned what I need to do in the future in order to be both mentally and physically prepared for each event.”

Like most of the skaters who competed in Beijing, Farris spent his time away from the event exploring the city, and was excited to talk about what he had experienced.

“We visited the Olympic Village and the Bird’s Nest Stadium,” he explained with a sense of awe. “This was very interesting and inspiring. A group of us climbed up the Great Wall, and it was amazing! We also went shopping at the Pearl Market which was a unique experience with all the bartering.”

With the Final behind him, Farris returned to Colorado to begin preparing for the U.S. Championships in Greensboro. While he was able to take a break from school over the holidays, Farris chose to keep a regimented training schedule during that time.

“I got a break from school even though I am home-schooled,” he explained. The only break from skating I took was Christmas day. I train a regular schedule otherwise. I was able to spend the holidays with my family.”

Farris moved to Colorado Springs three and a half years ago to train with coaches Tom Zakrasjak and Becky Calvin. In addition, Farris works with Erik Schulz, a former national level pairs skater, and Christy Krall, a 1964 Olympian.

His programs this season, Pepe Habichuela’s El Dron for the short and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess weren’t originally at the top of Farris’s list of choices.

“Originally I wanted to go back to the music that I skated to for my novice short program a couple years ago, but my choreographer Tom Dickson didn’t want to go back to it so soon,” he confessed. “So he suggested that we use the same genre, and we found this music. For some reason, I have a real connection to the music, and it has really helped me grow as a performer.”

“For the long program, [Zakrasjak] wanted me to skate to something age appropriate, so [Dickson] recommended this music,” he continued. “I always knew it, and I was kind of iffy on it at first because I really wanted to skate to Rhapsody in Blue, but they told me that I shouldn’t skate to it so close to Evan Lysacek using it. But I love the music now, and it is so pretty. I’ve been watching the movie, and I definitely understand the story, so it’s really fun for me.”

In preparing for Nationals, Farris has been paying attention to how one of his idols, Canadian Patrick Chan has been training.

“Patrick skates at my rink, and I watch what he does, and try to put the same effort into my skating,” Farris admitted. “I’m in awe of what he can do, I have tried to mirror my training after his.”

Looking towards Greensboro, Farris feels as if he has nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

“Since this is my first time doing something this big, I have no expectations. I don’t feel any pressure,” he explained. “I would really like to make it to Junior Worlds first of all, and I want to place at least in the top six, so I’m going to have to skate powerfully.”

But being one of the youngest skaters in the competition, Farris is taking a philosophical approach to the event.

“I’m going to watch the skaters that have been around a long time. I’ll watch what they do, and watch how they prepare,” he explained. “For me, this competition is not like a test. It’s the start of my whole career. Everything below senior is a step up to senior. This is when my career starts.”

Outside of the rink, Farris likes to do what he calls ‘normal teenage things’.

“I like to play video games, watch TV, and sleep,” he said with a chuckle. “One of my favorite series of all time in video games is the Final Fantasy series. I’ve played almost all of the games and it is really fun. On TV, I really like watching House M.D. and reruns of Friends.”

Farris has been home-schooled his entire life, and believes that it is the best decision for him.

“It really makes my schedule a lot more flexible, so it is perfect for my training schedule,” he explained.

Farris’s mother, Erin, keeps her son on task.

“She drives me everywhere, so I am always with her. We are very close,” Farris explained. “She doesn’t watch me train me anymore, and only watches me compete.”

Erin also has a budding non-dairy cupcake business that she has cultivated out of love for her son.

“I am desperately allergic to dairy, and cannot eat it at all,” he explained. “She started making these cupcakes that are created with recipes that are for people with all kinds of dietary restrictions. She started out trying them with her friends, and they couldn’t taste any difference from a normal cupcake. I am sure the business is going to be quite successful.”

Farris’s father, Rodney, lives in Texas, but is still very involved in his son’s life.

“Our brains are connected,” Farris said of his father. “He’s like an older me. I get him completely, and he knows my moods. He is my cheerleader.”

Farris’s older brother, David is a bowler who is very close to earning his place on the professional circuit.

“It’s really cool,” Farris said of his brother’s career choice. “He also just got engaged, so that’s exciting, too.”

Like most skaters, Farris has his sites set on qualifying for a spot on the 2014 Olympic Team that will compete in Sochi.

“I write goals down on these little pieces of paper, and then look at them a few years later,” he explained. “Most of the goals that I have written down, I have accomplished. This is one goal that I know that I am going to accomplish. I will do everything that I can to make the team, and I know that it is going to happen. If I think otherwise, then it really doesn’t have a chance to happen, does it?”

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