Toller Cranston - Canadian Figure Skating Champion

Toller Cranston skating
(Bettmann/Getty Images)

Toller Cranston won the Men's Canadian Figure Skating title six times, from 1971 to 1976. He also won bronze at the 1974 World Figure Skating Championships and at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential figure skaters of the 20th Century.

Until Toller Cranston came along, male figure skaters did not usually add an artistic element to their performances.

Although Cranston never won a world or Olympic gold medal, the mark he left on the sport of figure skating was bringing artistry and movement into men's figure skating.

Cranston was born in Hamilton, Ontario on April 20, 1949. When Toller Cranston was seven years old he began ice skating after his parents bought him a pair of ice hockey skates. Before trying skating, he tried ballet but didn't like it. On the ice, he tried to dance, and was told that he was naturally doing "figure skating." When Cranston was eleven years old, a coach named Eva Vasak took him on as a skating student. His talent impressed her, so she offered him complimentary skating lessons. Eva Vasak coached the young Toller for the next eight years. In 1964, he won the Canadian National Junior Men's title.

Toller Cranston's skating career changed when he made a coaching change to Toronto-based coach Ellen Burka after he didn't qualify for the 1968 Winter Olympics.

By 1970, Cranston began to become known as absolutely the most innovative and creative artistic skater in the world. He expressed music will his entire body and became known for sliding down the ice in very elaborate and creative skating costumes. He also did spins that were so creative and different that they were copied by other figure skaters.

Clockwise Jumper

Most figure skaters jump and spin in the counter-clockwise direction, but Toller Cranston did his jumps and spins in the clockwise direction. In addition to doing innovative and creative spins, he was known for high-quality jumps which included triple jumps.

"Tollerized"

Figure skaters of all ages did copy Toller Cranston's style. When that happened, it was said that a skater had become "Tollerized." Cranston's unique style included a very stretched body with bent leg positions, running on toes, kicks that when high in the air, and angular and high free leg positions. He was known for doing a spectacular Russian split jump where his skates would reach to his shoulders.

One of the Creators of Theatre on Ice

"Theatre on Ice" combines figure skating with theater and dance. Toller Cranston and his coach Ellen Burka are considered by some to be the first creators of "Theatre on Ice" since Cranston brought dance and creative movement to the ice.

Perfect Scores

At the 1972 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships, Toller Cranston was awarded four perfect 6.0 scores for artistic impression. Cranston won the free skate portion at the 1972 World Figure Skating Championships where he landed a triple loop and a triple Salchow.

At that "Worlds," the audience clapped and clapped as Cranston received a standing ovation. He also was awarded a 6.0.

Professional Life

Toller Cranston was not able to win a gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships or at the Winter Olympics, because his strength was in free skating and not compulsory figures. After winning bronze at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games which took place in Insbruck, Austria, Cranston went on to create his own ice show. "The Ice Show" included several elite figure skaters including other figure skating Olympians.

Cranston also toured the world with Holiday on Ice and skated in Canadian and American television specials. Later he performed with Stars on Ice.

In addition to skating in professional shows and on television, Toller Cranston did some figure skating commentating for Canadian television and also coached U.S. Figure Skating Champion Christopher Bowman.

Other Awards

  • Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame
  • Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame
  • Order of Canada
  • Canada's Walk of Fame
  • World Figure Skating Hall of Fame

Artist

Toller Cranston was an internationally known painter, illustrator, author, and designer in addition to being a skater and choreographer.

In 2013, he was appointed as the official artist for Canada's official skating federation, Skate Canada.  

Early Death

On January 24, 2015, Cranston died from an apparent heart attack.  He was only 65 years old at the time of his death.  Shortly after his death, during the Canadian Figure Skating Championships, he was honored with a brief moment of silence. 

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Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "Toller Cranston - Canadian Figure Skating Champion." ThoughtCo, Feb. 26, 2017, thoughtco.com/toller-cranston-canadian-figure-skating-champion-1282023. Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. (2017, February 26). Toller Cranston - Canadian Figure Skating Champion. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/toller-cranston-canadian-figure-skating-champion-1282023 Farris, Jo Ann Schneider. "Toller Cranston - Canadian Figure Skating Champion." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/toller-cranston-canadian-figure-skating-champion-1282023 (accessed November 18, 2017).