Cranston was born in Hamilton and grew up in Kirkland Lake. At the age of six he started with figure skating. His rise came slowly. In its first national championship in 1968, he did not perform well and missed the nomination for the Olympic Games. His coach Ellen Burka but managed to motivate him.
He was from 1971 to 1976 Canadian Figure Skating Champion. In 1975, he was Canada's athlete of the year, 1977, he was awarded the Order of Canada. Although he never became world champion or Olympic champion because of his weaknesses in the compulsory program, he regularly received top marks in the free skating program, in which he convinced by his expressive speech. Together with John Curry he raised the figure skating to a new artistic level.
Cranston's only medals at major international tournaments were two bronze medals. This he achieved in the 1974 World Cup in Munich, and at the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck in 1976. In Munich, he was like a world champion celebrated. At the age of 27, he turned pro and also appeared as a choreographer of ice shows in appearance. 1980 and 1982 he received the Golden Rose of Montreux. He also worked as a television commentator.
He has performed in numerous figure skating movies and TV specials such as Stars on Ice (1980 /81), " Strawberries on Ice" and The Ice Princess (1985 ) with Katarina Witt.
Cranston lives in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. He is active today as a painter and illustrator. His paintings revolve around themes often figure skating. His works have been shown in numerous exhibitions. Cranston has also published three books, two of which are autobiographical, which he co-authored with Martha Lowder Kimball. In his second autobiography, When Hell Freezes Over: Should I Bring My Skates? claims Cranston, during the World Cup to have had an affair in 1973 with Ondrej Nepela that influenced his athletic performance strong there.
Along with Martha Lowder Kimball Toller Cranston wrote several books about figure skating:
- Zero tollerance: an intimate memoir by the man who Revolutionized figure skating. Toronto 1997, ISBN 0-7710-2334-0
- When hell freezes over, should I bring my skates? Toronto 2000, ISBN 0-7710-2336-7
- Ice cream: thirty of the most interesting skaters in history. Toronto 2002, ISBN 0-7710-2332-4