Toller Cranston

1976 Olympic bronze medalist
Six-time Canadian champion
Le Patineur du Siècle

Multi-talented Canadian genius Toller Cranston revolutionized men's skating in the early 1970s, with his spectacularly twisted poses, his unmatched back spirals, and his unfailing flair for drama. After a controversial amateur career, in which he did poorly in figures but captured three world gold medals for free skating, he began a hard-working pro career. He toured with Holiday on Ice, the Ice Capades, and Stars on Ice, headlined his own shows, played Radio City Music Hall billed equally with Robin Cousins and Peggy Fleming, portrayed a sizzling Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet on Ice" with Dorothy Hamill and Brian Pockar, and in 1995, had a dramatic solo in Katarina Witt's international TV special, "The Ice Princess."

Perhaps his greatest television triumph was the 1982 CBC special "Strawberry Ice," which won several prestigious awards and was sold for broadcast in 67 countries. This fantastical brainchild of Cranston's, with its allegorical dream premise, undersea tableaux, and apotheotic dance finale, not to mention the sartorial splendor of the Strawberry Queen (skated by renowned Canadian choreographer Sarah Kawahara), may still be unequalled among television skating specials.

Cranston's contributions to skating come in many media. Many of his internationally recognized paintings deal with skating themes; his work appears in the World Figure Skating Museum, and the International Skating Union hosted a one-man exhibition of his work in conjunction with the 1997 World Championships. He was a skating commentator for CBC before being dismissed (and suing over it, successfully). He has coached and choreographed for world champions (including Lu Chen during her most successful season, culminating in the 1995 world championship), and designed and hand-produced striking costumes.

In 1997, Cranston's agents, International Management Group, organized a televised tribute show that signaled Cranston's retirement from pro skating. Cranston structured the show so that he would symbolically pass the torch to the younger generation. After that, he toured one more time, in Russia during the following year.

Cranston's credits include authorship of four books. In addition to the earlier illustrated books The Nutcracker and Ram on the Rampage, he collaborated with Martha Lowder Kimball to write two autobiographical volumes: Zero Tollerance in 1997, and When Hell Freezes Over, Should I Bring My Skates? in 2000. In both books, he mentions several other Rainbow Ice skaters, including Doug Mattis, winner of an interpretive contest that Cranston ran, and Christopher Nolan, who invited himself to participate in Cranston's tribute show. The incisive, literate, shriek-aloud funny autobiographies present the artist far better than any tribute could.

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