SKATE Magazine (Winter, 1975)

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 Nationals.

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 will be."