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Next Gen skaters carry Toller Cranston’s legacy

Young figure skaters will now be recognized for their artistic merit thanks to the new Toller Cranston Memorial Fund Athlete Award.

The Toller Cranston Memorial Fund Athlete Award celebrates next gen skaters who display exceptional artistry on ice at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in the novice and junior categories. The award honours the late Toller Cranston while inspiring the next generation of Canadian skaters to explore the artistry of skating.

This year, 14 skaters were selected to receive the award. Each winner will also receive a free pair of industry-leading boots and blades courtesy of Jackson Ultima Skates.

Katerina Kasatkin (left) and Corey Circelli became two of the first recipients of the Toller Cranston Memorial Fund Athlete Award for Ice Dance. (Danielle Earl Photography)

“It was an honour for me to be receiving the amazing recognition,” writes Corey Circelli, recipient of two awards for Novice Men’s Singles and Novice Ice Dance. “Few years ago I used to take few lessons with [Toller’s former coach] Ellen Burka and she use to call me ‘Little Toller’. I had the fortune to meet Toller in person and I was fascinated by the person he was, very creative and artistic.”

“For me to be recognized by the Toller Cranston Award is a true honour. I feel extremely grateful to have been awarded in both discipline and I am very thankful for it.”

The awards were presented at various Skate Canada awards banquets by former Olympic competitors, family and friends of Toller’s from coast to coast, including English skater Haig Oundjian and Toller’s proud sister Phillippa Baran.

“My brother Toller always believed that figure skating had unlimited potential for artistic vision and freedom of expression,” says Phillippa. “By committing himself to constant innovation he redefined the sport and he became an inspiration to other skaters to explore their own capacity and potential. Toller would be honoured and humbled to know that the artistry of young skaters is being recognized through this award.”

Toller’s sister, Phillippa Baran, speaks beside his costume pieces at the Toller Cranston Memorial Fund launch event at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2015. (Scott Umstattd)

In a sport that has evolved to favour technical difficulty and feats of athleticism, Toller was known for his freedom of expression and dramatic showmanship on the ice. As a six-time national champion and 1976 Olympic bronze medallist, he pioneered the artistic movement in competitive skating and paved the way for Canadian skaters such as Michael Slipchuk and Eric Radford.

“Toller had a vision for skating that was before his time. He brought art to the ice and changed the dynamic of the sport. We can see his influence in the balance of artistry and athleticism in our Canadian team,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO, Skate Canada. “Skate Canada commends the Canadian Olympic Foundation for keeping Toller’s legacy alive through this memorial fund and for inspiring a younger generation of skaters to value the art of figure skating.”

Toller Cranston was known for his flamboyant expression on and off the ice. (Skate Canada)

On June 25th, 2015, friends and family of the skating community gathered at the Art Gallery of Ontario to honour Toller’s memory and launch the Toller Cranston Memorial Fund. On this evening, funds were raised through individual donors and donations continue to be made in his name through the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

The Toller Cranston Memorial Fund was established by the Canadian Olympic Foundation shortly after Toller’s death in 2015. The fund is a way to show appreciation for the artistry he brought to the world of figure skating and to financially assist young skaters who possess the same artistic values and style as he did.

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Off the ice, Toller was a world-renowned artist. His paintings—colourful, flamboyant and intricate—are sought by collectors all over the world. He viewed painting as an extension of skating and the subject matter of his paintings often revolved around skating and skaters. As a revolutionary for his sport, he carried with him the courage and style he brought to the ice and in his art.

It took Toller years of risk and courage to deliver his unique style when it was not as highly celebrated. Now, his artistry lives on in the next generation of groundbreaking skaters.

The Canadian Olympic Foundation and Skate Canada are proud to announce the Toller Cranston Memorial Fund Athlete Award winners for 2017:

Brandon Day, Junior Men, Quebec
Bruce Waddell, Junior Men, Ontario
Corey Circelli, Novice Men, Ontario
Dawson Nodwell, Novice Men, Alberta
Triena Robinson, Junior Women, Alberta
Katrine Denis, Novice Women, Quebec
Natalie Walker, Novice Women, Ontario
Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud, Junior Pair, Ontario
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, Junior Dance, Quebec
Katerina Kasatkin & Corey Circelli, Novice Dance, Ontario