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Dept. of Beauty on Blades

Goodbye, Toller

It's been a tough week in terms of remarkable athletes, at least for me. Toller Cranston, who redefined male figure skating (hell, who redefined a lot of figure skating in general) in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the age of 65, of an apparent heart attack in his adopted home of San Miguel, Mexico.

When I grew up in Canada, figure skating was very important; not as important, perhaps, as ice hockey, but definitely important. And I adored Cranston. He was an artistic virtuoso. Watch his short program below, and you won't see the stratospheric jumps common among male figure skaters today (jumps that were pioneered by other Canadian skaters like Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko). What you will see is an elegant and seamless marriage of art and athleticism that has become a rarity in the field.

During his amateur career, it was obvious that judges either didn't know what to do with him, hated him, or hated the fact that they loved him. He never got to the top of heap, partly because of his style, and undoubtedly because of his caustic, snarkily humorous, and brutally honest observations about judges and, less often, other skaters - although he could also be supportive and kind to skaters.

It didn't matter. None of that mattered. He outshone all his detractors, even with the inconsistency that was his one bugaboo. (I don't consider his battles against the classic figures as a problem; he correctly said putting so much emphasis on figures was foolish, and that was one place the skating world eventually agreed with him.)

He was also a painter, whose works were displayed all over the world, and it was that art that sustained him after he left figure skating.

I once got the chance to interview him, as a reporter in Moncton. At the end of the interview, which was a joy, because he was, as always, a sparkling conversationalist, he gave me a small postcard with a piece of his art on it. I don't think I still have that, and I'm sorry it's disappeared in the decades since then.

There will never be another Toller Cranston, and the world is poorer for his absence.

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/343432.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
maruad
Jan. 25th, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
Toller Cranston's name conjures memories of a forgotten age (for me). His style was vastly different from his competitors. I also remember seeing his art featured on a TV program many years ago. I liked it then and I still like it.
kaffyr
Jan. 25th, 2015 05:05 pm (UTC)
Toller Cranston's name conjures memories of a forgotten age (for me).

And for me, as well. And I, too, liked his art. It was as quirky, fanciful, and at the same time as disciplined, as his skating was.
maruad
Jan. 25th, 2015 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, this "It was as quirky, fanciful, and at the same time as disciplined, as his skating was." I was actually thinking something very similar.
a_phoenixdragon
Jan. 25th, 2015 05:56 pm (UTC)
Bless...may he rest in peace.

*HUGS*
kaffyr
Jan. 25th, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know whether you're a skating fan, but I can't imagine anyone not feeling the exuberance and joy in his performance, nor anyone missing the skill he consistently showed.

*hugs back*
flowsoffire
Jan. 25th, 2015 09:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm sorry to hear. He sounds like a beautiful artist ♥ Impressive indeed…

*hugs*
kaffyr
Jan. 25th, 2015 09:49 pm (UTC)
He was a remarkable artist and a remarkable human being. I'm glad I could introduce him to you, even if it was only posthumously.
flowsoffire
Jan. 26th, 2015 06:47 am (UTC)
eaweek
Jan. 26th, 2015 02:44 am (UTC)
I heard about this while following US nationals this weekend. Such a shame. The sport has lost one of its true visionaries. :(

Lucky you for getting to interview him , though! That must've been a treat.
kaffyr
Jan. 26th, 2015 05:29 am (UTC)
US nationals this weekend.

Wow, and I hadn't even realized that Nationals were on. It's been a long time since I was cued in on either Canadian or American skaters, or skaters at all. But remembering Toller reminded me of how much beauty there is in the art and sport, despite all the many flaws of the community that surrounds it.

I am now so grateful that he was willing to speak to a young and obviously unseasoned reporter. It's a memory I'll truly treasure.
eaweek
Jan. 26th, 2015 07:49 pm (UTC)
Indeed, US and Canadian nationals were this past weekend. US Nats had some great performances.

It's sad how the audience for the sport in this country is dwindling. You could see the blocks of empty seats, even for the marquee events, down in the lower bowl. At one time, arenas for major skating events would be sold out up to the rafters. : /
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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