There will only ever be one Toller

There is only one Toller.

You don’t need to say Cranston to flesh out the spirit of the man: Creative. Flamboyant. Outspoken. Voraciously well read. Colourful. Generous. Prickly.

Toller was a diva. A master of outrageous one-liners. A big spender. A clever self-marketer. A larger-than-life guy who always cut to the chase.

And perhaps, a lonely artist, gone too soon at age 65. There’s a ghostly photo of him walking out of his San Miguel de Allende studio into the Mexican light, a lone figure, reluctantly leaving his work behind.

In his book, “Zero Tollerance,” Cranston noted: “I spent 20 years looking for love (any kind of love) without finding it. The subset of that, ironically, is that at the end of 20 years, I’m not sure that I would have recognized it if I had found it. It might have been right under my nose, but I didn’t have the sensibilities to discern it.”

He always walked his own path. He was an island, even in his own family, he once said. His mother left him nothing in her will. She didn’t support his skating. At the 1974 world championship in Munich, Toller had her kicked out of the rink. His father, an ex-football quarterback, was by Toller’s admission, a kindly man with whom he had no bond. His father once said he was immensely proud of his son, but Toller would never let him become close. “He has always been that way,” Monty Cranston once said. “Out there on his own.”

One of Cranston’s toughest crosses to bear, so he said, was his failure to win an Olympic gold medal in 1976. He took home bronze instead. He later said that loose end largely dictated his “lust for acceptance and recognition.” And that it led to “exaggerated personal behaviours and ruinous conspicuous consumption,” he said.

His novel skating style was not always accepted by the establishment. (When he won his Canadian junior title at age 14, his placements ranged from 1st to 22nd, he said.) Nor was his art accepted. Canadian art has been described by some as the “frozen art of a frozen people.” But Cranston’s work burst with warm colour, arabesque forms and exotic Silk-Road characters. He was completely an outsider. Perhaps his fantasy art wasn’t taken seriously. To Cranston, it was very serious, an expression of his inner vision.

“Do you have any paintings by Toller Cranston in your gallery?” Maia-Mari Sutnik, a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario was asked after Cranston’s death. “No,” she replied quickly. “His work doesn’t fit into any of our collections. His work is decorative art. And then he left the country. He wasn’t part of the community. If you have a Toller Cranston piece, just keep it and enjoy it.”

In June of 2011, Cranston was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree at Carleton University, where he addressed a convocation of students. “This is important to me,” he told the begowned ones. “This is the first time I’ve received a pat on the head.”

Ron Shaver, a contemporary of Toller, who pushed him to the max at Canadian championships, knew the artist-skater since he was six years old. “I don’t think he was ever anyone that people got close to,” Shaver said. “He just didn’t let people in. “

Shaver burst into tears when he heard that Toller had died.

Cranston was well known for his conspicuous consumption, so rampant that at age 40, he sold the entire contents of his Toronto home at an auction at Waddington’s in Toronto, hoping to stem the over-the-top collecting and pay for a new abode in Mexico. But in Mexico, it eventually continued apace. “Usually it means that something is missing in your life,” said one of his best friends, Thom Hayim. “When he goes on a spending spree, I know he’s feeling inadequate.”

Other close friends acknowledge that he was a lonely man. “He lived a very independent, alone life,” said Clive Caldwell, who has known Cranston for almost 44 years. “But he was never alone. He was always the life of a party. He wasn’t the guy sitting in a corner, feeling sorry and sad because he was alone. He was hell bent and determined to take over the world, and he was trying to do it every day.”

Caldwell never felt that Cranston missed anything or that he wanted more. He was a driven painter, and hated distraction. Solitude was necessary to create.

“He always used to ask me things like: ‘What’s it like to have a partner?’” said John Rait, an ice dancer who has known Cranston since he was 16. “He didn’t understand how normal people lived and how those relationships worked. He was always quick to ask: “Well, what happens then, and how does that work? Or how do you feel when that happens?’ He was interested in how other people existed, but I think his existence was so rarified.’

Everywhere Cranston went, people followed. He was always surrounded by people. Some of his friends called it “the circus.”

“And everybody wanted something from him,” Rait said. “Everybody was there to take and very few people were there to give. Those are the people that have stayed with Toller over the decades: the givers. The takers have come and gone several times. And there’s always somebody new.”

Toward the end of his life, however, Cranston was getting the “circus” under control and many of the people in his life were the givers, generally concerned about his welfare. Some helped him sort out financial issues. He was in a good place, at peace, calmer than he’d ever been. He began to paint in pastel hues, rather than the fulgent reds and blues. The future looked bright.

His death stunned his long-time coach Ellen Burka. “I think now he’s in peace,” she said. “I think now at least he can smile. He lived his last years in a most beautiful environment.”

Fifty Years Later: Petra Burka, 1965 World Champion

It doesn’t feel like 50 years, says Petra Burka, 1965 world champion, of her momentous achievement, almost a lifetime ago. Somebody sent flowers and cheer. There’s a celebration in Toronto on today. The years have gone in a flash. Still, Burka is ever youthful. “I think because I’m with kids a lot, I don’t feel old,” she says, still working as a team leader and coach.

She remembers little of that day 50 years ago of her stunning win. But she recalls that she and her coach/mother Ellen Burka looked at each other when they heard Petra had won. “I think she was happier than me,” Petra said. “I was in shock.” She had swept both the figures and the free skate.

In a way, she’s paying the price for having an innate jumping ability and she did it in a time without the sort of support that the skaters of today enjoy. Last year, she had hip replacement surgery. The banging on her leg as she worked the doubles – and the triples – took a toll. “It’s a skating thing,” she says. “I think you’ll find a lot of figure skaters, dancers, athletes need hip replacements. It was my landing foot. Now they have sophisticated programs that allow you to get your body warmed up so you won’t injure yourself.”

In Petra’s time, there was no such science or help. Skaters back then did not do off-ice work. She went to the rink straight from school, put on her skates and jumped. Strangely enough, Petra never suffered an injury as a competitor. And just like so many other things in her life, it wasn’t easy for Petra to recover from her hip surgery. The flat in which she lives – in an orchid-hued house designed by architect sister Astra – requires her to navigate 45 steps to the top, to her sun-filled digs.

Petra was Ellen’s first international student, and together they learned the ropes. For her now 93-year-old mother (she still has her driver’s licence), there had been many more to follow. Ellen Burka has taught students that made it to seven Olympics and won 48 international medals. Petra led the way, often training on her own while her single mother worked to pay the bills. Fifty years ago, skaters didn’t get money to train, and they were restricted from earning money. The rule back then was that if skaters earned more than $25 in a season, they’d be banished from the amateur kingdom for good.

“After worlds, we’d be in shows all over Europe and North America, but we didn’t see anything of it,” says Petra. While Petra’s journey to her first world championship in Prague in 1962 was paid by the skating association, Ellen had to buy her own ticket. While she was away, she’d lose the revenue from lessons missed. At Petra’s first Canadian championship in Regina, she and her mother dined on their own breakfast of champions – a can of beans on a hotel dining room plate – because her mother didn’t have the cash to pay for steaks. Remember, women weren’t allowed to apply for credit cards in those days.

In her day, skaters didn’t have the luxury of going to sports schools that would understand the demands of an athlete schedule. Petra would get to the rink by 6 a.m. for four hours of figures, and two hours of free skating a day, and she’d miss the first period of school. Between January and March, she seldom showed up at school because of her travels. The school would demand that Petra still write her exams and she’d cram to fit it all in. Luckily, she has a photographic memory and it would all stick. The year she won the world championships, she got 49 out of 50 on a health exam, but zero for the physical education portion of the course – because she was never there.

It didn’t take long for the Russians to spot Petra’s superior jumping ability at her first world championship in 1962. During a tour that followed, she received a telegram from the Russian federation, asking if she and her mother could go to Moscow and do skating seminars. “They wanted to know how my mother taught ‘that girl who could jump.’” Petra says. “What’s the secret?”

In Prague, the Russians had taken their passports. Ellen was understandably skittish, with no documents in hand in a Communist country. Finally they boarded a cargo plane with no seats for the ride to Moscow. Ellen calmed her nerves by downing vodka. “I remember the plane flew really low and dropped mail or whatever and would keep flying,” Petra recalls.

After her amateur career, Petra toured for three years with Holiday on Ice, with the final two years in Europe. It was a culture shock for Petra, used to training, never going out, missing the high school prom. They played to sold-out houses for a month in Paris, and Amsterdam, too. Picture this: near a rink in Paris, there would be 10 caravans, where the show’s cast and crew would have wives and dogs and lives. Petra could have stayed for another two-year stint, but she decided that she didn’t want to get caught up in a never-ending carnival life with “all those gypsies that stay in forever.”

Mostly, Petra would stay in cheaper hotels in Europe (skaters paid for accommodations) because that’s where her friends were. One night, she was caught off guard. During a drive from France to Spain, Petra stopped to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969 on a tiny TV screen somewhere out in the countryside. When Petra finally arrived in Madrid, the sun was rising over the city, and her room had been taken. It was the only time she checked into a five-star hotel during her career.

She arrived back home in Toronto with a designer wardrobe and a Mercedes 250 SL that promptly died, and found herself in the midst of another culture shock. While she’d been gone, hippies had blossomed, and they all wore gauzy dresses with flowers in their hair. “We were yuppies before there were yuppies,” Petra says. She had to adjust to the real world. “It took me the next 40 years to recover,” she says, laughing.

With the money she made on the tours, she bought her mother a refrigerator. “I want to make sure my mother gets credit,” Petra says. “She had a pretty tough life. She had to drive herself around between three clubs to make a living. My mom was instrumental in my doing well. It was because of her that I became a champion.”

Skate Canada mourns the loss of iconic figure skater Toller Cranston

Skate Canada and the entire skating family are saddened to hear of the passing of six-time Canadian champion and Olympic bronze medallist Toller Cranston. Cranston passed away at 65 years of age in San Miguel, Mexico where he had lived for many years.

Referred to by some as a modern pioneer of artistic skating and by the European press as “skater of the century”, Toller Cranston’s influence on men’s figure skating is incalculable.
“A skater with a painter’s eye”, his original artistry and dramatic showmanship on ice broke new ground in figure skating and thrilled audiences.

From 1971 to 1976 Toller was six-time Canadian champion. He placed second in the 1971 ultimate North American Championships held in Peterborough. In 1973 and 1975 he won the newly created competition, Skate Canada International. At the 1974 world championships in Munich he earned a bronze medal. That same year he was chosen as the Sports Federation Athlete of the Year.

At the 1975 and 1976 world championships in Colorado Springs and Gothenburg, respectively, he placed fourth. In Innsbruck, at the Olympic Games in 1976, at twenty six years old, Cranston won the bronze medal.

Since retiring from amateur skating, he was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1976 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1977. He was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada that year. In 1995 he received a Special Olympic Order from the Canadian Olympic Association. In 1997 he was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame. An accomplished painter in his later years, Cranston’s artwork is as well-known as his skating.

Skate Canada offers its sincere sympathies to Cranston’s family and friends. Skating has lost a true legend.

Lori Nichol: Welcome to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame

Lori Nichol’s skating career began on a backyard rink hanging on to the end of her Dad’s hockey stick while her Mom glided by in a beautiful arabesque.

That was London, Ontario. Lori was four years old.

After her Dad was transferred to the United States it wasn’t long before Lori’s parents enrolled her in skating lessons at the local club. Eventually she was tutored by the incomparable coach Don Laws.

From her first step on the ice, she was enchanted by the music and how it moved her to create movement and expression. While other skaters practiced their programs, Lori would be skating to their music with her own version of the choreography. Mr. Laws would have to explain to the other skaters that Lori wasn’t being rude, she was simply inspired by their music and how it spoke to her.

It was a sign of things to come for Lori.

“Everything begins with music.”

Lori admits that despite her love of skating, her competitive career wasn’t a huge success. At that time and with exposure to artistic movement lessons, she was slowly discovering she preferred the creative process and felt incredible joy in pursuing the “art” of skating. She appreciated that good skating consisted of great jumps and spins but she also intuitively had a sense that other parts of the sport were worth examining too. What about all the stuff in between? Things like edgework and control, the invention and exploration of movement, the study of sound and how the combination of those things could be expressed in the blade’s relationship with the ice. Those unexplored elements were fascinating to her.

While Lori was delving into her artistic talents, another skater, this one of international and Olympic fame, was putting his artistic stamp on the skating world. Olympic champion John Curry felt so strongly about skating’s artistic potential, he had already created a skating company that would explore that potential through choreography and expression … and he wanted Lori to join. For young Lori, it was a dream come true and her first professional exposure to the rigors of ballet training, the purity of skating and the skills the performers had to develop in order to deliver the material at the standard John expected. It was an intense learning experience.

After an injury that forced her home and out of the Company, Lori found herself lost. She took endless types of jobs to pay the rent while she was undergoing physiotherapy.

Did You Know?

Did you know that Hall of Fame Inductee and world renowned choreographer Lori Nichol was competing at age 10 in her favorite yellow skating dress modeled after a costume worn by US legend Janet Lynn?

One day, a former cast mate in the show, Shaun McGill, asked her if she would substitute teach for him at the Granite Club in Toronto. She wasn’t expecting to love it. Working with young skaters and discovering in them how to make each one unique and special was inspiring. The experience ignited in her the idea that perhaps teaching “artistry” and the quality things she truly loved about skating could be a new and exciting direction for her. … and she already knew the sport needed an artistic advocate.

As her professional teaching career gained momentum, she continued her study of skating’s artistry. She researched the worlds of music, horticulture, fashion, art and architecture, the masters … looking for structure and motivation in anything aesthetic … and always attempting to translate it to the ice.

One summer she took a team of her skaters to Lake Arrowhead in California to study with the legendary Frank Carroll. There she found a mentor and friend who counselled her that if choreography was her thing, she should definitely follow that dream. And to support his advice, he phoned her later in Toronto to ask if she’d work with one of his promising young students.

Lori’s first lesson with this young girl in pigtails was spent figuring out how to connect and trying to build a relationship of trust. That first foray wasn’t easy. How could she explain the meaning of music and artistry when the skater was only interested in how to land a successful triple Lutz? It forced Lori to build on her approach.

“Some skaters are stuck between two worlds”, says Lori. “Are they athletes or artists? My job is to find the music that they love, music that inspires them with ideas and movement, music that will continue to inspire them throughout the season … and still respect the intention of the composer.”

Over the next several years working with Frank’s young student, Lori felt she had a blank canvass on which to help the skater paint an exquisite picture. With Lori’s choreographic vision, that youngster went on to win nine US Nationals, five World Championships and two Olympic medals. Michelle Kwan is one of the most decorated skaters ever.

In Lori’s 30 year career, her choreography has produced 45 Olympic and World medals performed by athletes from all around the world. For Lori each program she creates provides a unique experience and the opportunity for both the skater and the teacher to enter into an intense discovery process together.

She has created some of skating’s most memorable masterpieces: Michelle Kwan’s “Salome”, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier’s “Love Story”, her many creations for Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette’s “Samson and Delilah, yet Lori’s proudest moments aren’t necessarily about specific programs.

“It comes down to working with athletes from when they’re young, such as Michelle Kwan, Patrick Chan and Carolina Kostner, and having a vision for what style and skills would make them unique. Sometimes it takes years of work before you see results however I’m motivated to envision the impact they could have on skating, and the tenacity, the patience, the acumen and passion it will take to get them there.”

Lori is also inspired every time a skater has a great performance and she sees the joy and satisfaction in their faces.

“I will never forget the look on Michelle’s face at 1996 Edmonton Worlds after skating clean; Jamie and David’s reaction in the kiss and cry when they won Worlds in Vancouver; Evan Lysacek and Shen and Zhao’s look of relief and peace with the gold medal around their necks in Vancouver; Patrick Chan’s special laugh and amazement after winning Worlds 2012 by so many points; Denis Ten going crazy when he won the Free at London Worlds 2013: Carolina Kostner’s smile through her entire Olympic experience in Sochi and Mao Asada’s upbeat tribute to her Mom. That’s when I feel I have done something special!”

It’s the relationships that have so much meaning for Lori, friendships built in the safe and nurturing environment she creates on the ice.

Off the ice, she translates her passion for the artistry of skating into building a better judging system through her work with the International Skating Union. As a contributor and author in the on-going education of judges and the refinement of the Program Components, Lori’s efforts have been recognized world-wide.

In the words of Robert O’Toole, Lori’s one time coaching partner, “Lori wrote the book on how we define, structure, view, and judge the artistry of skating.”

Lori is respected around the world for her work and admits it has become a personal mission to raise the understanding of what aesthetics means, for example, in Japan as opposed to in Russia or in France and Germany, in England or in the United States and Canada … and that one style or one way is not better than another.

According to Lori, “Skating’s greatest challenge is to understand and respect those differences and then educate, educate, educate so we have the tools to know what is considered true quality within those style preferences. I will fight to make sure the art of true skating is never forgotten!”

Olympic Medal Upgrade Fifty Years in the Making

Which Color Is It!?

Back in 1964 at the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, my partner, Guy Revell, and I were competing against the skating super powers … West Germany’s defending World Champions Marika Kilius and Hans Jurgen-Baumler, the favorites, and the visionary Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, examples of the emerging pair skating movement coming out of the USSR.

Both those leading teams showed unique styles and excellent skating, the Germans with their glamorous Hollywood presence and the Russians with their magical and romantic artistry. Just watching each of the teams trying to out-maneuver the other to take control of the practice session was a ticket-worthy event all on its own!

That year Guy and I were considered “dark horses”.

With only two previous world championship outings on our resume, 1960 in Vancouver where I think we were second last and 1962 in Prague where we finished fourth. You may recall no competition was held in 1961 out of respect for the Prague bound US Team killed in a plane crash near Brussels.

When Worlds were held in Cortina, Italy in 1963, Guy and I were hoping to build on the previous year’s success and with a good performance show we had the stuff to be considered possible medal contenders for the Olympic Games just one year away. But after a disastrous fall while posing for photographers, my resulting facial paralysis and concussion forced us out of the event with team leaders sending us home early to deal with what might have been a career-ending injury for me. Fortunately the expert medical team at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto discovered that the paralysis was actually caused by internal hemorrhaging, a result of a hairline skull fracture not picked up at the small hospital in Cortina that dealt mostly with broken bones from skiing accidents.

All that background is to say, in the lead-up to the ’64 Games, nobody really knew who we were or what we could do. Remember … back then there was no Grand Prix Series and very few other international events where programs could be tested and judges could educate themselves. It was one 5:00 free skate that determined the 1964 Olympic Champions. (The Short Program was debuted that year at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany.)

What the skating world did know was it was going to be a battle like no other. Change was in the air … and in the end, the traditional athletic razzle dazzle of the Germans could not fend off the new, fresh look and mesmerizing direction of the Protopopovs. The Russians claimed the gold medal in a 5/4 split … remember those? Guy and I were third to win the bronze medal and the dynamic US Pair team, Vivian and Ronald Joseph, settled for fourth.

It was a huge upset! But there was something else even more unsettling lurking beneath the on-ice event.

Rumor had it that the Germans were entertaining professional ice show offers prior to the Games, the ultimate taboo back in those days when the Olympic ideal was based on true amateurism. No money, no talk of money, no professional plans, no prize money, no government funding … we really did skate for the love of the sport.

Flash forward two years and out of the blue in 1966 Guy and I received a letter from either the ISU or the IOC … it’s a bit foggy after 50 years … saying that the German team had been disqualified. If we’d be so kind as to return our bronze medals, now to go to the Josephs, we would receive the Olympic silver medals. To say it was like winning the lottery would be an understatement!

And to my knowledge, for more than 20 years, that’s the way the placements stayed.

Suddenly in the late ‘80s, that all changed. Looking at the IOC official results, Kilius/Baumler were back listed as winning silver and Guy and I were once again in third place.

Although there was some scuttlebutt about what that meant, it was all speculation. Neither the CFSA (Skate Canada) nor Guy and I were ever informed of the change, however the biggest part of the mystery was we were never asked to return our silver medals. It was so weird and to tell you the truth, I began to feel a bit like an imposter. I still had the silver medal … but not according to the record books.

Over the next 25 years, nobody was able to get to the bottom of the story. Skate Canada, the USFSA, coaches, officials and the athletes involved all tried to find out exactly what happened. How could the German team be disqualified in 1966 only to reappear in the results some 20 years later?

A visit to Saint John, NB for the 2013 Skate Canada International was a turning point.

There I met Amy Rosewater, a freelance journalist writing for the New York Times. She was doing a pre Sochi story on the US team from 1964, in particular on Scotty Allen the men’s bronze medalist. There aren’t many of us around from that era so Barb MacDonald, Skate Canada’s Corporate Communications Director, suggested Amy speak with me about some of my Scotty recollections. We hit it off right away … had a great gab about my experience at the ’64 Games … which eventually led me to tell her the relatively unknown pair medal saga.

One week later, Amy phoned me at home to ask if I’d be willing to support her efforts to find out the details of the story. My response? “Of course … and may the force be with you.”

It took Amy two months and much probing to discover that the IOC did in fact conduct an investigation after Innsbruck and found evidence the German pair had indeed signed a pro contract during the Games, an action which led to their disqualification two years later.

But there’s more.

Apparently at the same time amateur rules were being enforced, there were political machinations going on in the background. Amy discovered this stunning revelation which she reported in the New York Times on December 13th/2013.

Willi Daume, a longtime German sports official, later said that had the (German) pair not returned their medals, it might have jeopardized Munich’s eventually successful bid for the 1972 Summer Games.

As for the remarkable placement turn-about in 1987, Amy followed up in the same December 13th/2013 NY Times article:

Prodded by two German members, the IOC quietly re-awarded the West Germans their silver medals in 1987, 23 years after the Innsbruck Games, at an executive board meeting in Istanbul. The couple was deemed “rehabilitated”.

Since then, although the record books have consistently shown confusing results and despite never notifying the countries involved, the IOC maintains it always intended that the silver medal would be shared between the pair teams from Canada and Germany.

And in one last note … it took another 11 months of Amy’s persistence before the change in placements was finally and official recognized on the IOC website. Silver for Canada and West Germany, bronze for the United States. That was November of 2014 … over 50 years after the competition.

So this week in Kingston if you see me wearing a rather large silver medallion around my neck, I hope you’ll understand.

Canadian choreographer Lori Nichol takes her place in the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame

These days, Lori Nichol has a spring in her step. There’s an extra lift to her walk. The world seems brighter.

It’s because this Canadian choreographer was just granted entry into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in mid-March, and the gesture of world support has deeply affected her. “It’s an incredible honour,” said Nichol. “For them to give this nod of approval gives me an extraordinary feeling. I didn’t even think it was possible.”

This from the woman who has choreographed exquisite routines for Michelle Kwan, Patrick Chan, Mao Asada, Carolina Kostner, Evan Lysacek, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, Denis Ten, and Daisuke Takahashi. In all, she designed programs for 11 singles skaters and one pair team, representing seven countries, at the Sochi Olympics.

Still, she’s surprised. “I was profoundly honoured and amazed that that could happen to me,” she said.

Because of this nod from the majordomo of the sport, Nichol says she’s having an uncommonly good choreographic season. “I feel more confident on the ice,” she said. “I keep being able to say to myself: ‘Just trust yourself, Lori, other people believe in you.’ I’m enjoying the process quite a bit more this year than I have in the past.”

She’s not tormenting herself so much. She bears the perfectionist’s burden: great is not good enough, every detail must be splendid. She can spend 20 minutes on a rocker, a change of edge. She’s always had this pervasive self-talk as she works, when she choreographs in her head and she’s watching her skaters and analyzing what parts work and what parts don’t. “Come on, Lori,” she says to herself. “You can do better than that. You know there is something more in that. Find it!’

“And having said all that, as tortured as it all sounds, I love it to death.”

Every time she sets to work to design a routine, she’s “petrified” the night before she starts it. She agonizes. Did she choose the right music? Has she given the right amount of breathing space to the skater to be able to perform and interpret? Has she balanced the athlete and artist enough? Will the choreography interfere with what the coach needs technically? Has she compromised the art too much for the technical? “Oh my goodness, the skater has come so far, or their family has sacrificed so much for them to be here,” Nichol worries. “Or is this the last program that this person will skate in an eligible career?” All sorts of things go through her head.

But then there are those moments when a skater does something amazing. “Then you feel so proud,” she said. “It could be as simple as four beats of movement that are just so fabulous and I get really excited.”

That’s just how it is when she works. She’s made friends with the process in a way. She’s even been tortured that she was tormented. Now Nichol says she’s able to accept that it’s just going to be like that. But now, “I just have this little burning ember inside of me that I didn’t have before that says: ‘You really can do this.’” Nichol said.

A case in point: the divine short program “Ave Maria” that Nichol did for Carolina Kostner, who ended up winning the Olympic bronze medal after so many Olympic disappointments. “It was a very difficult year, very emotional, and it was our ninth year together,” Nichol said. “And I felt sick almost for six months. It was Olympic year and for so many, it was their final year – or could be.”

Nichol had choreographed a Humeresque short program for Kostner, but when it received mixed reviews early in the season, Nichol’s experience allowed her to ditch it rather than try to fix it – and she brought in Ave Maria. Kostner wasn’t sure about it, but Nichol (as usual) convinced her that it would be the perfect complement to her earthy, sensual Bolero long program. “Ave Maria showed the sweetness and ethereal feeling,” Nichol said. It fit the skater.

So far this season, Nichol has already done two new programs for Gabby Daleman (“I’m very excited for her year,” Nichol said) and U.S. champion Gracie Gold, too. She’s excited about doing American Ross Miner’s long program. Right now, Nichol is doing one or two programs a week. She’s booked until the middle of July.

She attended the world championships in March after Kostner decided to compete and was asked to come first to Obertsdorf, then Japan. She returned from overseas on a Sunday. The next day, Nichol was at work, choreographing. She hasn’t had a day off since.

But still, she feels rejuvenated, even if she is tired. Her walk to the rink feels different and it’s because she’s been accepted into the World Hall of Fame.

Every day, when she opens the rink door, she tells herself that she will do everything she can to make a difference, no matter how small, in a person’s life or in the skating world, the art of skating. And now she knows she can.

“Just trust yourself,” she said. “I’m saying that to myself much more than other dialogues now. It’s a really beautiful gift and it’s an unexpected feeling from it. I never thought about what it would make you feel like. But it’s really something very, very special.”

You can only imagine what her programs will be like this year.

Beverley Smith

Elizabeth Manley enters Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

OTTAWA, ON: In a press conference today Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2014. Canadian figure skater Elizabeth Manley was included in the class of eight. The other inductees include, Horst Bulau, Sarah Burke, Pierre Harvey, Geraldine Heaney, Gareth Rees, Tim Frick and Kathy Shields.

“The Class of 2014 is truly an inspiring group of Canadian sports heroes,” said Colin MacDonald, Chair of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors.  “We are proud to be able to share the stories of their achievements so that we can inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life.  Our new Honoured Members and a number of sports heroes from across Canada who have been previously inducted will be at the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Celebrations presented by Canadian Tire event in Toronto on October 22 to celebrate as the Class of 2014 are officially inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.”

Manley is a world class figure skater with an exemplary list of accomplishments in her career. Her 50 national and international achievements include being a two-time U.S. Open Figure Skating Champion, three-time Canadian Figure Skating Champion, the 1988 World Figure Skating Silver Medallist, the 1988 Olympic Winter Free Skating Champion, and ultimately the 1988 Olympic Winter Figure Skating Silver Medallist. Elizabeth is credited as being the first Canadian female to successfully land a triple-double combination jump in competition. She also received the Order of Canada in 1988.

With all of Manley’s athletic success, Canadians were not aware that she battled severe depression. Instead of hiding her personal challenge, Manley made her depression public in hopes that it could help others. Her inspiring inner strength in dealing with mental illness, and her tireless efforts in support of mental health, Manley won a gold medal in life and is a role model for all of Canada to be proud of.

Skate Canada congratulates Elizabeth Manley on this well-deserved honour. The inductions will officially take place in Toronto on October 22, 2014 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the former Maple Leaf Gardens.

About Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is an international award-winning facility with over 40,000 square feet of inspiring experiences. Located at Canada Olympic Park (COP), site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame features 12 galleries, more than 50 hands-on interactive experiences and a collection of more than 95,000 artefacts. Our mission is to share the stories of the achievements of our Honoured Members so that we can inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life;

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Names Class of 2014

TORONTO – Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame today announced the Class of 2014. The Athletes who were announced and recognized with Canada’s highest sporting honour are ski jumping champion, Horst Bulau, pioneer of the superpipe event, Sarah Burke, dual sport champion, Pierre Harvey, women’s hockey pioneer, Geraldine Heaney, figure skating superstar, Elizabeth Manley and Canada’s gift to rugby, Gareth Rees. The Builders who were announced as inductees are wheelchair basketball pioneer, Tim Frick and renowned basketball coach, Kathy Shields.

The Class of 2014 inductees present were Horst Bulau, Geraldine Heaney, Elizabeth Manley, Gareth Rees, Tim Frick and Sarah Burke’s father, Gordon Burke. In attendance to announce the Class of 2014 were Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Honoured Members: Michelle Cameron-Coulter, Dr. Bruce Kidd, Kerrin Lee-Gartner, Marnie McBean and Pat Stapleton.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was pleased to announce Michael Medline, President, Canadian Tire Corporation, as the Honourary Chair of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Celebrations presented by Canadian Tire. The celebrations will be returning to Toronto on October 22, 2014 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the former Maple Leaf Gardens. “We are a proud partner of Canadian Tire and thrilled to have Michael Medline as our Honourary Chair working toward the biggest celebration of sport in Canada,” said Mario Siciliano, President and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

“The Class of 2014 is truly an inspiring group of Canadian sports heroes,” said Colin MacDonald, Chair of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors.  “We are proud to be able to share the stories of their achievements so that we can inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life.  Our new Honoured Members and a number of sports heroes from across Canada who have been previously inducted will be at the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Celebrations presented by Canadian Tire event in Toronto on October 22 to celebrate as the Class of 2014 are officially inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.”


As Head Coach of the Canadian Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team from 1990 to 2009, Tim developed Team Canada into one of the most dominant teams in the history of all Canadian amateur sports. He led Team Canada to an incredible decade-long undefeated streak in major international competition, including an unprecedented three consecutive Paralympic gold medals (1992, 1996, 2000), four consecutive Wheelchair Basketball World Championship titles (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006), and bronze medals at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championship (1990) and Paralympics (2004).

Early in his career, Tim coached Rick Hansen during his Man in Motion World Tour. Rick Hansen said, “Tim Frick was my friend, my coach, and my Difference Maker. Tim challenged me to be the best I could be, to find excellence through hard work and purpose. Tim helped me become the “Man in Motion”.”

Tim has a natural ability to bring out the very best in people. He inspires, motivates and encourages through his coaching style and believes in preparation of the athlete, not beating the opponent. Throughout his career, Tim has been a champion for the development of opportunities for sport and physical activity for persons with disabilities.


Kathy Shields has had an incredible career as both an athlete and a coach, spanning over three decades. Her coaching involvement includes Assistant Coach with the University of Victoria Vikettes (1977-1978), Head Coach with the University of Victoria Vikes (1979-2001), Assistant Coach with Team Canada (1981-1994) and Head Coach for the Senior Women’s National Team (1992-1995). Kathy led the University of Victoria Vikettes/Vikes to 8 CIAU/CIS National titles and had a record of 320 wins and only 50 losses. She has been awarded the Canada West Coach of the Year nine times and has won the CIAU/CIS Coach of the Year.

Kathy has contributed to the landscape of Canadian women’s basketball where fourteen of her athletes have gone on to represent Canada internationally. Additionally, an unimaginable eight of her former athletes and assistant coaches have become head coaches of university teams. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Shields uses her skills shaped over her many years of coaching to counsel others going through breast cancer treatment.


Considered Canada’s greatest ski jumper of all time, Horst Bulau enjoyed an outstanding ski jumping career from 1978 until his retirement in 1992. He won a World Junior Men’s Ski Jumping Championship in 1979 and represented Canada in the 70m, 90m and 120m ski jumping events in four Olympic Winter Games: Lake Placid, 1980; Sarajevo, 1984; Calgary, 1988 and; Albertville, 1992. At the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, Horst placed 7th, the best finish ever by a Canadian ski jumper in the 120m event. Between 1978 and 1988, Horst competed in 129 events on the World Cup ski jumping circuit, including 13 World Cup wins with 26 podium finishes and was consistently ranked 2nd or 3rd in the world during most of his career.

Horst raised the profile of ski jumping in Canada through his love of the sport, the love of his country, and the drive to be the best that he could be. No ski jumper has even come close to achieving his success. Horst has chosen to remain in Canada and volunteers in his community and inspires others with the love of sport.


Pierre Harvey is one of the few Canadian athletes who ever competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Pierre represented Canada as an Olympian in 1984 at the Sarajevo Olympic Winter Games in cross-country skiing and at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Summer Games in cycling, and again at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.   Pierre made history in 1987 when he became the first Canadian to ever win an international cross-country event; a 30 km freestyle World Cup race at Falun, Sweden. He went on to win another three medals in World Cup competition in 1987 and 1988 before retiring in 1989. In total, Pierre competed in 50 Cross-Country Ski World Cup events and would stand atop the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championships podium an amazing 35 times, including 22 Gold, 8 Silver, and 5 Bronze. A product of the Canada Games system, Pierre Harvey was a dual-sport athlete who has become an icon for both Canadian Cross-Country skiers and cyclists.


Gareth Rees is known around the world for his outstanding rugby skills. At 19 years of age, he was the youngest person ever to be named to an All World Rugby XV. Gareth is also the only man to have represented his country, starting in every game, in four Consecutive Rugby World Cups – 1987, 1991, 1995, and 1999. Gareth is also the first man in the world to Captain his country in two Rugby World Cups, 1995 and 1999 and was captain of the Canadian National team 25 times in his 14 years with the team. He won scoring titles in France, Wales and England where he played professionally for a decade and Gareth is still ranked in the top 10 all-time point scorers in the Rugby World Cup. Since his retirement, Gareth has been a passionate advocate, introducing rugby to beginners of all ages across Canada and around the world.


In 1980, at the age of 13, Geraldine Heaney started playing hockey with the Toronto Aeros. This began a long and successful career playing in a then male-dominated game, and ultimately developing women’s hockey into the forefront of Canadian sport culture.

Geraldine won seven gold medals at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships (1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001), the only woman to have ever accomplished this, won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and a gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. More than a decade after her retirement, Geraldine remains the highest scoring defenceman in the history of Canada’s National Women’s Team. Geraldine takes her responsibility as a role model for young girls very seriously and continues to advance the women’s game.


Elizabeth Manley is a world class figure skater with an exemplary list of accomplishments in her career. Her 50 national and international achievements include being a two-time U.S. Open Figure Skating Champion, three-time Canadian Figure Skating Champion, the 1988 World Figure Skating Silver Medallist, the 1988 Olympic Winter Figure Skating Freestyle Champion, and ultimately the 1988 Olympic Winter Figure Skating Silver Medallist. Elizabeth is credited as being the first Canadian female to successfully land a triple-double combination jump in competition. She also received the Order of Canada in 1988.

With all of Elizabeth’s athletic success, Canadians were not aware that she battled severe depression. Instead of hiding her personal challenge, Elizabeth made her depression public in hopes that it could help others. Her inspiring inner strength in dealing with mental illness, and her tireless efforts in support of mental health, Elizabeth won a gold medal in life and is a role model for all of Canada to be proud of.


Sarah Burke was a rising star in the world of Freestyle Skiing. In competition, she was the FIS Freestyle World Ski Champion – Half-pipe in 2005, a four-time gold medallist at the Winter X Games, a gold medallist at the Nippon Open Slopestyle in 2007 and the 2007 gold medallist at the WSI, Whistler Pipe. Sarah was the first woman to land a 720, 900 & 1080 degree rotation in competition.

Sarah started in her sport when there were no women competitors and she could only compete with men. With her strength, personality and belief that all girls should have an equal chance, she attracted and often trained a generation of female competitors. Sarah’s passion and perseverance has been recognized as having been instrumental in the recent inclusion of her sport at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, but she was unable to compete due to her untimely death. She died in January 2012 at the age of 29 after succumbing to injuries suffered while training. Sarah was, and will remain a great role model for youth across Canada and above all, will be remembered for her warmth, her smile and her love of life.

About Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is an international award-winning facility with over 40,000 square feet of inspiring experiences. Located at Canada Olympic Park (COP), site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame features 12 galleries, more than 50 hands-on interactive experiences and a collection of more than 95,000 artefacts. Our mission is to share the stories of the achievements of our Honoured Members so that we can inspire all Canadians to be the best they can be in all aspects of life; Inspiring Canadians -in sport and life. Please visit to learn more about our education programs, facility rentals and corporate retreats.

*Please note that the official name is Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, not the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.


Marnie Krell
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
P: 403.776.1086 | C: 403.437.0939 | [email protected]

Canadian Lori Nichol elected to World Figure Skating Hall of Fame

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada is pleased to congratulate world-renowned choreographer Lori Nichol on her induction into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame (WFSHF) for  2014.

The announcement was made by the hall on Friday, March 14.  She joins Switzerland’s Denise Biellmann as this year’s inductees to the Hall, based in Colorado Springs, CO.

In making the announcement, the WFSHF nominating chair, Lawrence Mondschein, said “I am thrilled to have two outstanding additions to the World Hall of Fame. Lori Nichol is a choreographic genius who for well over a decade has, and continues to be, an inspiration to all who have been touched by her work. Denise Biellmann, the first Swiss woman to be inducted into the hall, perfected one of the most admired spins in all of figure skating.”

Leanna Caron, President, Skate Canada, acknowledged Nichol’s far-reaching contribution to the sport of figure skating. “Lori’s skills as a choreographer have reached well beyond our national boundaries, and she has truly been revolutionary to the sport.  Her approach to choreography is unique; creating technically difficult programs that seamlessly integrate with the musical nuances and yet reflect each individual skater or team is truly remarkable. We are proud that she is now not only a member of Skate Canada’s Hall of Fame, but the World Hall of Fame as well.”

Nichol has choreographed programs for 10 Olympic medalists, including three gold, representing five nations. Two of her famous signature programs include Jamie Salé and David Pelletier’s 2002 free program Love Story and Joannie Rochette’s 2010 free program to Samson and Delilah. She was named to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame in November of 2012.