SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Mexico – Legendary figure skater Toller Cranston, a six-time national champion whose unique artistic vision forever changed the sport, has died. He was 65.
Cranston, who won bronze medals at the 1974 world championships in Munich and the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics, died at his home in Mexico from an apparent heart attack, a Skate Canada spokesperson said Saturday.
“It’s sad to hear that,” former Canadian champ Mike Slipchuk said from this year’s national championships in Kingston, Ont. “Toller was the face of skating, what he did for skating in Canada and skating in the world is where we are now — really forcing the creative side of the sport.
“He was the one who really pushed those limits forward.”
Cranston, who was born in Hamilton and grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., and Montreal, never won an Olympic or world title but his dramatic showmanship had a profound impact on figure skating.
He later settled in Mexico and focused on his art, with his work exhibited in galleries and museums around the world.
Cranston was known for his biting sense of humour. He once laughingly commented to The Canadian Press about world champion Patrick Chan: “I don’t think I could watch him skate live, I’d commit suicide out of depression at how good he is.”
Slipchuk, who serves as Skate Canada’s high-performance director, said he’ll cherish his memories of Cranston.
“He was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “He had a great sense of humour, it was always an entertaining day to see what story we were going to hear that day.”
Cranston won national titles from 1971 to ’76 and placed second at the 1971 North American championships in Peterborough, Ont. He won Skate Canada International events in 1973 and ’75.
He finished fourth at the 1975 world championships in Colorado Springs, and was fourth again a year later in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Cranston was 26 when he reached the Olympic podium at the 1976 Winter Games. He was later inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1977.
In 1995, he received a Special Olympic Order from the Canadian Olympic Committee. Cranston was also an illustrator, author, designer, choreographer and sports commentator.
Autopsy results were pending. There was no immediate word on funeral plans.
With files from Canadian Press sports reporter Lori Ewing.