Former Olympian skater dies in Mexico from an apparent heart attack. Olympian skater Toller Cranston won the bronze medal at the 1974 world championships in Munich and at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. Cranston would die on the same day that a new Canadian men’s champion is going to be crowned.
Cranston was a champion and more importantly a legend. International Skating Union vice president David Dore considered Cranston a “living legend.”
“I was shocked by [Cranston’s death] based on the fact that he was one of the few living legends in any sport. He was the perfect living legend,” said Dore. “His legacy will be that he gave the sport a stamp that exists to this day. Even though he was always going uphill, he never lost his focus. The sport won. We all won.”
“He was one of a kind,” said Brian Orser, a former Canadian and world champion, Olympic silver medallist and now in-demand coach. “Nobody will ever be like him. And such a great contribution to figure skating but me, personally, (it was) just his sense of humour and his outlook on life and (his) free spirit … (he was) somewhat of a rebel. Always spoke his mind, wasn’t always so accurate but he spoke his mind.”
In the media room we all looked at each other in shock when we first heard the news via Jeanne Beker’s Twitter account:
Devastated+completely broken-hearted: My dearest friend+mentor, the brilliant Toller Cranston, has died in his beloved San Miguel. #RIP
— Jeanne Beker (@Jeanne_Beker) January 24, 2021
His artistry was considered to be one of the driving forces behind the move from strictly stiff athleticism to more expressive men’s skating. I believe that without Toller Cranston, there would not have been the generations that followed which included Patrick Chan.
Toller admired Chan’s skating and that he was glad not to have had to compete against him.
“I’m on another planet watching Patrick Chan with binoculars and applauding along with the rest of the world,” Cranston said from his Mexican hideaway in 2012.
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.
The legend 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.