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On Toller Cranston | The Nation

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On Toller Cranston

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My sports hero as a kid? Easy. Toller Cranston. If you weren’t a Canadian growing up, or simply believed that men’s figure skating really wasn’t a sport, you may not have heard of the guy. But trust me when I say that he single-handedly reinvented men’s skating. Even watching him decades later, it’s still clear that it’s largely because of him that the sport went from a sequence of jumps, spins, jumps and grins to something that looks like a poem. I logged hours on the couch next to my mom watching him in Skate Canada after Skate Canada, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was subversive enough, even at 7, to love that he would rail against the starchy formal requirements of the sport (they finally did away with compulsory figures for men years and years later) and insist that it was all just, well, groovy art. Look him up on YouTube, all twisting wrists and craned neck. The crowds went nuts for him because you could see that he was born to do precisely what he did. The hardware—which mostly eluded him—was just gravy.

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About the Author

Dahlia Lithwick
Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate.

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