Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame profile: Toller Cranston

Toller Cranston: Athlete, Figure skating

Toller Cranston lived up to the expectation of his first name—a German word meaning “beyond great.”

Cranston can be credited for revolutionizing men’s figure skating by bringing a form of artistry to the sport. It was his creative free-skating style that helped push figure skating out of its comfort zone in the 1970s.

tollerCranston’s first steps in skates were taken at age seven in Northeastern Ontario. It wasn’t until three years later that Cranston became serious about the sport. His instructor Eva Vasak inspired much of this passion. She was so impressed by his talent she offered to coach him for free!

Cranston had a modern style beyond his years. Before he became involved in the international skating scene, men's figure skating had little arm movement or expression. Hands and arms however, were a large part of Cranston’s routines. He felt the music through his entire body.

One of Cranston’s most renowned moves was his Russian split jump that brought his feet all the way up to shoulder height instead of waist. Running toe steps and spins also contributed to his unique numbers. Cranston had a large fan base who appreciated his idea of “theatre on ice.” Younger skaters competing in this period began to adapt his style, "Tollerizing" their own techniques.

Cranston won his first Canadian championship in 1971. He then went on to win another six Canadian titles over the course of his professional career. The athlete also finished third at the World Championship in 1974, fourth the following year, and a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics.

In addition to being a distinct competitor, Cranston was a noted television commentator, choreographer, author and, in later years, a visual artist. He painted more than 70,000 pieces and sold one at a high of $40,000.

The skating community felt a huge loss when Cranston passed away in January 2015. He will always be remembered as beyond great. He will always be remembered as Toller.

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