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Eager Farris battles nerves before Skate Canada

Reigning world junior champion gets musical assist from Dolensky
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Josh Farris hopes to skate at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, but he knows qualifying in 2014 is still possible. -Sarah S. Brannen

Josh Farris, the 2013 world junior champion, is eager to compete this week at 2013 Skate Canada, and also slightly apprehensive.

"I'm a little nervous," he admitted. "It's my first Grand Prix. I don't really know what to expect. People can tell me as much as they can, but you don't know until you go."

Farris, 18, is soft-spoken and bashful; although he avoids interviews, he speaks openly and honestly once you get him to agree to one. We talked in April in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he trains with Christy Krall and Damon Allen, and in Boston this month.

Skate Canada will be Farris's second outing with his new programs; he debuted them at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City in September. He choreographed both programs himself -- mostly.

"I would have to say it was a team effort, with Damon," he said. "The long, I did more this time -- I laid it out. Damon obviously did the footwork. For some reason, my brain doesn't work with that, with the turns and everything."

Farris says he listens to music all the time, looking for ideas for programs.

"I've always been very sensitive to art and music," he said. "Every piece of music I listen to, I always wonder, 'Why did they write that? Why did they say that in that song? What does that mean?' I always go into detail."

The idea for the free skate, to Schindler's List, came to Farris before the world junior championships last spring. The short program music, a piano version of Libertango, needed an assist from friend and competitor Tim Dolensky.

"I knew that if I was going to skate to something so slow [in the free], that I needed a somewhat upbeat short program," Farris said. "I looked at Spanish flamenco, but I've done that before, so I was like, 'Let's try something just a little farther out of my comfort zone.'

"Tim Dolensky found the music. When he comes to Colorado Springs to get programs choreographed, he stays with us. He's very musical, obviously, so he showed it to me, and I'm like, 'I'm skating to that!'"

Farris finished third in Salt Lake City. He said at the time that he was very focused on the choreography, possibly to the detriment of his jump training. He's determined to learn from the experience.

"It's not that I wasn't training hard enough. It's that I wasn't training right," he said. "I was letting frustration take effect, and I was stopping in my programs, and I wasn't being deliberate. I'm not doing that any more. I've done that in the past, and it always catches up to me. I learned my lesson."

Now, Farris says that he is learning to refocus if he makes a mistake during a program run-through.

"Obviously, I still get frustrated. That's a guarantee; everyone gets frustrated. But now I take myself back quickly. Just keep going. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Last season, Farris won the world junior championships with a score of 228.32. His only major mistakes were a fall on a quad toe loop in the free skate and an edge call on the triple flip. He admits that going into the competition as the favorite made him a little nervous.

"But once I get there, it's like, 'OK, it's just like any other competition. I can do this, I've trained,' and it kind of all goes away," he said.

In Salt Lake City, Farris stepped out of a quad toe in the short program and replaced the quad with a triple in the free. He has worked on other quad jumps, including the flip.

"Flip would probably be the easiest for me, but I get the edge call sometimes, so I don't want to run that risk," he said. "I've actually tried all the quads in the harness, other than Axel, obviously. Loop and Lutz were probably the easiest."

For now, he has a quad toe in both the short and the free skate, although he hopes to have two in the free skate eventually.

"In the short, I want to skate clean, confident, do what I know how to do, and then go all out in the long."

Farris says the quad has improved a lot over the last month.

"So much better, oh my god. Ever since I got back from Salt Lake, I was like, 'OK, I need to turn this around.' They're so much more consistent now, more consistent than they've ever been."

Asked which men's skaters he looks up to, Farris named two Japanese superstars. He'll get the chance to compete against one of them this week in Canada.

"Honestly, Yuzuru [Hanyu]," he said. "Yuzuru and Takahashi are my two favorites right now."

However, Farris' greatest adversaries may be milk and butter. He is dangerously allergic to dairy products, and despite his constant vigilance -- he packs his own food for competitions -- he has occasionally ended up in the emergency room rather than on the ice.

"It goes in cycles," he said. "Sometimes it's better than others."

Farris has always said he is aiming for the 2018 Oympics.

"I feel like -- I will go to 2018," he said.

And 2014?

"You know, it is possible," he said, slowly. "I don't want to think about it too much. If I skate as well as I can, without peaking, because if I do go, I don't want to peak at nationals, but I feel like it would be a dream, whatever happens. I'm taking it one week at a time. I'm excited for the Grand Prix. I'm thrilled, I'm honored. I'm training really well right now."

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