Ice Network

Finding his voice: Farris just realizing full potential

Colorado skater turns career around after epiphany at U.S. championships
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Joshua Farris credits his improved artistry to the time he spent on 'Stars on Ice.' -Getty Images

It was the day before the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and inside the Greensboro Coliseum, Joshua Farris was frustrated: His season so far had been disappointing at best, he was still getting over a high ankle sprain from the summer, and a lack of self confidence that had bothered him throughout his career was bubbling under the rink's surface.

But this day -- the day before his first of two breakout senior performances at the age of 20 -- Farris did things differently, working through his free skate in full during his practice session, and doing so in clean fashion.

"I am so proud of myself," a breathless and rarely boastful Farris told coach Damon Allen at the boards.

It was the moment that changed things for the better.

Nearly six weeks later, Farris is set to compete at the world championships -- his first -- in Shanghai later this month. He followed his bronze-medal performance in Greensboro with a second-place result at the Four Continents Championships last month, affirming to himself and to his team that the new approach was working.

"[That practice at the U.S. championships] was truly a pivotal moment for him," Allen told icenetwork.

"I had been hitting a brick wall that I had built myself," Farris added. "That wall did not need to be there."

And suddenly, for Farris, that wall is gone, opening up a world of opportunity on the ice and on the international stage -- a place where, he said, he's been scared of success for some time.

"Josh's breakthrough was a culmination of many positive actions taken over a period of time," said Caroline Silby, a sports psychologist who works closely with Farris. "We knew [the U.S. championships] had some fairly specific 'noise,' [but] Josh used that noise to open himself to the moment and see what was in front of him with clarity. Then, he held himself accountable for executing his plan."

A new plan

Farris has always been a skater who can feel the ice, moving with lines that make him appear to float on the surface. Consecutive U.S. pewter medals in 2013 and 2014 were exciting yet unfulfilling: The kid who went toe to toe with Jason Brown for much of his teens was suddenly being left behind.

But the physical and mental work all came together in Greensboro, and did so again weeks later in a pair of strong performances in Seoul. Farris was believing in his skating, and it was showing in the results.

"There was a part of me that knew I could be one of the best U.S. men, and best in the world, but there was another part that was afraid of the top," admitted Farris, who won the world junior title in 2013. "I think I was just holding myself back. I was maybe afraid of the pressure. I'm not afraid now. I kind of let myself skate how I really know how to skate. Just now, I'm finally having my breakout season."

"I think he's getting older and more mature," said Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and 2008 world champion who choreographed Farris' heavily praised emotive short program to Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love." "With experience comes maturity, and Josh has a sensitivity for his music where he's able to explain what he's feeling on the ice and what he wants his audience to feel."

Making the connections

A year ago, in February 2014, Farris was feeling that familiar chorus of frustration and self-doubt. It was at that time, with the Sochi Olympics about to get underway, that he went on a ski trip with his family. He picked up his acoustic guitar one night in front of the fire and started playing, telling everyone to sing along with him. But they didn't.

"They all told me, 'Wow, Josh, you have a really good voice.'"

The message came in loud and clear: Trust yourself. Believe in yourself.

"I'm a very shy and introverted person," Farris explained. "I think I kind of…well, playing music has really brought me out of my own shell. I think that has really helped me connect with the audience."

"[Josh is] one of the most complete skaters that I know in the U.S.," Tara Lipinski said of Farris during the U.S. championships, speaking to the NBC audience. "A lot of people love Jason Brown's artistic side of his skating, and his component score is always up there, but in my opinion, Joshua does it better."

Added Johnny Weir: "Joshua is a natural artist."

Much of that artistry, Farris said, came from his time on the Stars on Ice tour last spring, when he spent weeks on the road with some of the skaters he had looked up to for so many years.

"The last two competitions, I don't think I would have done as well, improved as much as I have, if it wasn't for Stars," Farris said. "I learned so much, particularly about connecting with the crowd and selling your program."

He's connecting with his quad as well. Farris said his quad toe will stay in his free skate for worlds and that he will also add one to his short program.

Striking the right chord

"Josh is finally realizing and believing how talented he is, and that his new work ethic will allow him to feel confident and prepared at competitions," said Allen, who works with Farris at the World Arena in Colorado Springs. "Josh is a truly gifted athlete and artist on the ice. He combines all of the difficult elements with classical lines and fluid movement that many of his competitors are unable to achieve. I feel Josh's future in the sport is limitless and he has much potential to play a leading role in male figure skating."

Wall knocked down, Farris is starting to understand that potential as well. Gone are the ghosts of an embarrassing 11th-place finish at the NHK Trophy last fall, as is the fear of not delivering big when he needs to. In fact, Farris has retooled his expectations with his recent success.

"Four Continents really boosted my confidence," he said. "I think if I skate two programs to the best of my ability, I could get into the top five. It's my first worlds, so that would be a pretty great result."

Farris has taken his love for music and guitar to the next level, penning his own songs during his down time.

What would a song be called about his career right now?

"I have written many songs about my career," Farris said, laughing. "I think probably 'This Is It' or something like 'Is This Really Happening?'"

Yes, Josh, this is really happening. And if things continue as they have, Farris will have a lot more lyrics to write.