Farris has Da Vinci, gold on the menu in Milan

Colorado Springs skater looks to put finishing touch on junior career

Joshua Farris is hoping to ride the momentum he generated from his fourth-place finish at the 2013 Figure Skating U.S. Championships.
Joshua Farris is hoping to ride the momentum he generated from his fourth-place finish at the 2013 Figure Skating U.S. Championships. (Jay Adeff)


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By Lynn Rutherford and Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(02/26/2013) - In Milan this week, Josh Farris has a couple of masterpieces on his mind: "The Last Supper," Da Vinci's 15th-century mural in Milan's Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, and two clean programs to mark a perfect end to his junior career.

"A win would put a nice, beautiful kind of bookend to his junior career," Farris' coach, Damon Allen, said. "He would finish with a splash, the good kind."

The 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships get under way Wednesday at Milan's Agora-Stadio del Ghiaccio. Some 184 skaters from 42 countries are entered this season, with 11 fewer countries participating, due to the new technical minimum score requirements set by the ISU. All skaters compete in the short program or short dance, and the top 24 singles skaters and 20 ice dance couples reach the final. All 16 pairs will compete their free skates.

At the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha last month, the 18-year-old Farris had a breakthrough performance, placing fourth with two stylish and technically challenging programs. Now, with 2012 world junior champion Han Yan and reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion Maxim Kovtun departed for the senior ranks, Farris may have a clear route to the world junior title.

But Allen, who with Christy Krall coaches Farris in Colorado Springs, Colo., downplays the role of favorite.

"[Winning] is always in the back of your head, but it's not the focus at all," he said. "The goal is to skate two clean programs. Omaha was a big confidence booster for Josh. We're keeping him focused on his daily training plan, hour by hour."

In 2011, limited by illness and injury, Farris placed 21st in his U.S. senior debut. Last season, although disappointed with his 16th-place finish, he went on to win silver at junior worlds. His international résumé includes five Junior Grand Prix (JGP) titles, as well as bronze and silver medals at the Junior Grand Prix Final.

Despite this success, Farris has been known to take the occasional subpar performance hard. He has worked to temper his emotions, something Allen -- who with Krall began coaching the skater in the spring of 2011 -- considers a normal part of the growing-up process.

"Josh finally had his real senior national debut that he's wanted for so long," Allen said. "Going into Omaha, he took a more mature approach, and the everyday work paid off. He was ecstatic to put out the programs that he did.

"He has become a young man. He's taking a far more mature approach to competition. We're helping him deal with issues as they arise, and we've given him more responsibilities when it comes to his training plan. He has more ownership of his success. We expect great things from him."

In Milan, Farris will do a second triple Lutz in his free skate, in place of one of the triple flips he did in Omaha. He plans a quad toe as the second element in the program, a jump he fell on at the U.S. championships but landed at JGP Lake Placid early this season.

"We want to show the judges he is a quad contender for next season, that he can put the quad out under pressure," Allen said. "He's played around with the quad toe-triple toe combination and hopes to add it next season. We want to show he's arrived and he's ready to make a big splash on the scene as part of the new wave of U.S. men, along with Max Aaron and Jason Brown."

Skating is not all that's on the agenda for Farris and Allen, who left for Milan last Saturday and will spend nine days in Italy.

"My coach, Kathy Casey, always said that it's really important you see the sights when you travel, rather than just sit in a hotel," said Allen, who won the 1992 world junior bronze medal. "He's not going to be sequestered. We're looking forward to seeing The Last Supper. We have a great time when we travel."

Brown, the reigning world junior bronze medalist, is competing at junior worlds for the third time. The 18-year-old hopes to continue to step up his technical game by landing a triple Axel in his short and two triple Axels in his free skate. He added the jump to his repertoire this season, landing one in his free in Omaha.

Shotaro Omori, the 17-year-old U.S. junior silver medalist, makes his world junior debut in Milan. Tammy Gambill, who has coached Omori in Riverside, Calif., since December 2011, targeted the skater's confidence and strength this season.

"He is very talented; he just needed to believe in himself a little bit more, to be able to push through his programs," said Gambill, who also trains Ricky Dornbush. "He's been a great addition to the group here, and he fit right in. He was very hungry to be good and very easy to train."

Key to Omori's success in Milan is the triple Axel, a jump he landed for the first time in competition last summer.

"He landed one in each of his Junior Grand Prix events; he missed it in both of the shorts but did it in the longs," Gambill said. "Nationals was the first time he landed it in the short.

The U.S. men will contend with tough competition from Japan's Ryuju Hino; two Russians, Mikhail Kolyada and Alexander Samarin; Canadian Nam Nguyen; and China's Boyang Jin.

With a fifth-place senior finish in Omaha, as well as a fourth-place finish at the 2012 World Junior Championships, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier lead U.S. pair hopes in Milan. The team comes armed with two stylish programs choreographed by French-Canadian Julie Marcotte, as well as solid throws and lifts. They are coached by three-time U.S. pairs champion John Zimmerman and his wife, Italian champion Silvia Fontana, in Florida.

Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer are making their second trip to junior worlds, after placing 10th last season. Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches the U.S. junior pairs champions in Colorado Springs, plans to up the technical ante in the team's Henry VI free skate.

"Between nationals and junior worlds, we've worked on side-by-side triple Salchows," Sappenfield said. "We took out the double flips. The program now opens with triple Salchows. The double Axel-double Axel sequence is still in, but we moved it to a different part of the program."

The team, together since 2011, also worked on its lifts.

"We're cleaning things up, getting rid of gray areas so [Level 4s] will be easier [for the technical panel] to call," Sappenfield said. "We've added to the footwork, to get to Level 4. There's not much more you can do in the four weeks between nationals and junior worlds. We're working on the triple twist, but it's not ready to put out in competition yet."

Sappenfield thinks that, elements aside, Simpson and Blackmer have a number of things working in their favor.

"They are very lyrical and well connected when they skate, and they interpret music well," she said. "It's going to boil down to who has the best skate, that day."

U.S. junior silver medalists Jessica Noelle Calalang and Zack Sidhu, who are coached by three-time U.S. pairs champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, make their junior worlds debut in Milan.

As usual, Russia sends a strong pairs contingent, including Grand Prix Final champions Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin. China's Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, the reigning world junior silver medalists, are podium candidates again this season, as are both Canadian teams: Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro, and Brittany Jones and Ian Beharry.

Reporter's notebook: Sappenfield reports that Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the U.S. silver medalists, are recovering well from a soft-tissue injury to Scimeca's right foot that forced them to withdraw from the 2013 Four Continents Championships: "They're training their run-throughs pain free. She has had a combination of different treatments and is responding well. They still have to be monitored next week [to determined readiness] for the world championships."