Showman on Skates
Thirteen year old Jim Bray, from Ontario California,
is a ham on skates.. and he knows it.
There is nothing this bright, young skater would rather do than show off his
skating talents to an appreciative audience, and the audiences always love
it. As a four time National Champion, twice Singles, twice Pairs, Jim is
definitely one of the rising other skating stars of the future.
From just watching Jim skate once, it's obvious that one of his greatest
skating strengths is his showmanship and his ability to sell a program. His
routines are always real audience pleasers, as he performs, not only for the
judges, but for the audience and himself. With a smile of expression on his
face, he whizzes through programs, displaying expression and musical
interpretation not always shown by skaters of his age.
But then Jim has a lot of skating experience crammed into his thirteen
years. He began skating at the age of six when he attended a session for
beginners with a friend. In 1968, Jim began taking private lessons and
entered his first Regional meet, the always tough Southwest Pacific Region.
Jim placed first in Tiny Tot Boys Singles and went on to place second at
In 1971, Jim teamed up with Robin Miller to skate Elementary Pairs, a union
which proved extremely successful as they placed first at
Nationals in both 1971 and 1972 in this event. Jim also continued his
interest in freestyle throughout these years, placing first in Elementary
Singles in 1972 and 1973, and of course, winning Freshman Boys Singles at
the recent 1974 Championships, where he also skated in Freshman Pairs,
placing 9th, Freshman Boys Figures and International Freshman Boys Figures.
"I like skating freestyle the best," states Jim with a sparkle in his eyes,
"But I know that I'm going to have to work on figures the most this year. It
takes a lot of long, hard work to get good at them."
Figures are very important to Jim if he is ever to attain his goal of being
a World Champion. Never one to set his sites too low, Jim would also like to
be the youngest Senior Mens Singles Champion and to someday, hopefully,
participate in the Olympics.
Some of Jim's toughest competition in skating comes from his fellow
competitor and best friend, Dean Maynard. Dean was the 1971 Juvenile Boys
Singles Champion and the 1973 Freshman Boys Singles Champion. While very
close friends, they are both very competitive. Jim recalls that one of his
most satisfying experiences as a skater was beating Dean in International
Freshman Boys Figures at the 1973 Regionals. This past year Dean finished
second in Junior Mens Singles at Nationals.
"It made me feel good to finally beat him," explains Jim, laughing. "I had
tried to beat him for almost five year, so it was nice to know I could."
Although Dean was in a division higher than Jim in recent competition, the
two talented friends may eventual meet in Senior Mens competition.
"We've always tried to teach our son sportsmanship," explains Jim's mother.
"I've watched Jim and Dean before they skate against each other. Each always
offers the other the best of luck. This friendship, and it's one of the
strongest friendships you could ever find."
Competition is a very big part of Jim's life, but not only in roller
skating. A youngster who seems to be good in just about any sport he tries,
Jim is also very active in baseball, basketball, football and swimming. It's
hard to believe, but besides finding time to roller skate approximately four
hours each day, Jim also plays on his school's football and basketball
teams, which usually requires some time after school almost everyday. In a
typical day, Jim will go to school until 3:00, stay after school for sports
till 4:00 then return home so he and his father and mother can drive to the
rink where he will work one hour each on International and American Figures,
Freestyle and Pairs skating.
Scholastic competition is important to Jim also. With the understanding that
his grades come first before skating and other sports, Jim is an outstanding
student in his classes, maintaining a straight "A" average. In 1973, Jim
received the double honor of being named both outstanding student and
outstanding athlete at his elementary school. Now in the eighth grade at
Imperial Junior High, Jim is running for school President as well as working
on the school Yearbook Staff. Through his work on the Yearbook, he has
recently acquired a keen interest in photography.
Most Jim's friends at school are aware he is a National Roller Skating
Champion, but not always understanding of exactly what he does. Jim says
that very often after his friends have seen him skate at the rink or in
exhibition at a school program their comments are "That sure isn't Roller
Derby," or "I didn't know you knew how to do that kind of stuff."
Jim's skating teacher up until this year has been Tom Panno, a pro well
known throughout California. Both Jim and his parents credit Tom with
getting Jim to where he is in skating today.
"The first, and lasting impression, that I had of Jim was one of happiness,"
recalls Panno. "He always has a smile on his face, even during practice. He
would spend as many as five hours at a time working on an item and never
complain. He never doubted any instruction I gave him. He is responsive in
his lessons and a perfect joy for any teacher."
Due to the length of the drive to Panno's rink in Orange, approximately 75
miles round trip, Jim is not skating under Tom's direction this year.
Instead, he is skating at the Montclair Roller Rink, also owned by Panno,
but much closer to the Bray's home. Changing rinks was a tough decision for
Jim, especially since it meant he could no longer work with Tom. But, he and
his parents decided that the long drive was making school and skating life
too hectic and depriving him from full concentration on both.
Jim is now being coached by Rick Weber, a former Senior Fours Champion. Jim
and Rick are now busy working on his new routines for the upcoming year.
Since Jim will now be in Junior competition, he must lengthen his routine
and probably begin work on triples.
While Jim's parents are thrilled by his success in roller skating, they
didn't want to push Jim into skating or force him to work at it more than he
wished. Last year, Jim quit skating for six months in order to spend more
time in other sports and see if skating was really his first love. After six
months of basketball, football, baseball and ice skating, Jim made the
decision himself. He wanted to go back into skating. By the time of this
decision, Regionals were only six short weeks away. Jim began working with
Panno, and in this time mastered his program in Singles and Pairs, enabling
him to return to the Nationals.
One of Jim's outstanding qualities has to be his attitude towards skating.
For one so young, he has some very mature idea about competition and a good
mental attitude about his skating.
"I usually get a little nervous before I skate, but I think this is good,"
explains Jim. "Being nervous makes you work harder. But, I'm not scared of
the judges or the audience. I just tell myself that if I've done it before,
I can do it now too."
Obviously, skating is a big part of the Bray's family life. Every yearly
vacation is spent driving to the Nationals so that Jim can compete. "We're
glad Jim is in skating," related Mr. Bray, who also skated when he was Jim's
age. "I think it's good clean fun and a great thing for him to become
interested in. It may even become his career. Jim wishes that Roller Skating
had something like the Ice Capades so that he could find a career doing what
he likes best, pleasing crowds."
Jim's outlook is the same as his parents. "I love skating and competing. I
think it builds character and teaches a person to accept losing as well as
winning. I also enjoy meeting people with similar interest and goals as me."
"My son works hard at skating and has always given 100% to it and anything
else that he does involves competition," explains Jim's father and number 1
fan. "He has his sights on the World Skating Championships when he is old
enough to compete, and I'm confident that someday that is exactly where he