Road To The Olympic Games

Figure Skating·Opinion

Top 10 Canadian figure skating champions

As the country's best do battle this week in Ottawa, figure skating analyst Pj Kwong makes her picks for the greatest Canadian champions of all time.

Pj Kwong ranks the all-time best

A fierce competitor who won seven Canadian men's titles, Elvis Stojko made figure skating look cool. (Carlo Allegri/AFP/Getty Images)

For our country's figure skaters, the road to Olympic and world championship glory often starts with a win at the national championships. From there, Canadians have gone on to claim 33 world titles and three Olympic gold medals.

As Canada's best do battle this week in Ottawa, boiling down the list of amazing Canadian champions to an all-time top 10 wasn't easy. There are so many athletes who deserve to be included.

In making my picks, I decided to weigh heavily the number of Canadian titles a skater has won, followed by other titles they achieved. My goal was to select Canadian champions who had longevity and who also enhanced Canada's reputation on the world stage. 

The fun part actually turned out to be discovering many unique, amazing stories of skaters who are included in my "honourable mentions" list. For example:

Montgomery Wilson holds the record for men's titles with nine — a mark Patrick Chan can match this week in Ottawa. Between 1929 and 1939, only one other skater won the men's event — Chan's first and beloved coach Osborne Coulson, in 1936 and 1937. Talk about coming full circle.

Suzanne Morrow-Francis is the only skater to win titles in three different disciplines at Canadians. She was a three-time women's champion from 1949-51, a two-time pairs champion with Wallace Distelmeyer in 1947 and 1948, and the ice dance champion in 1948, also with Distelmeyer. She competed at the 1948 Olympics in both singles and pairs and finished with a pairs bronze, then placed sixth in singles at the 1952 Olympics.

Toller Cranston never won a world or Olympic title, but during his six consecutive Canadian titles from 1971–76 he did more to advance the artistic side of skating than anyone before him. He won the free-skating segment three times at the world championships (1972-74) along with a world bronze in 1974 and an Olympic bronze in 1976.

Kurt Browning needs to be mentioned here. His four national titles were stepping stones on the way to four world titles in the same years: 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993. As a jumping pioneer, Kurt landed the first ever quad (at worlds in 1988), which changed the face of skating and encouraged skaters to see what was possible. He married musical interpretation with technical prowess with equal ability in both areas.

Charles Snelling was a five-time Canadian men's champion from 1954–58. He retired to complete medical school and returned to competitive skating in 1964 to reclaim the national title. He continued to compete at Canadians until 1967, capturing two more silvers and a bronze.

On to the top 10:

1. Barbara Ann Scott (ladies)

Canadian titles: 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948

Other highlights: World champion in 1947, 1948; Olympic gold in 1948; only Canadian to win European championship (1947, 1948)

Scott's ladylike demeanour hid a killer competitive instinct. For all kinds of reasons, including sentimental ones, she is my No. 1.

Figure skating champ and 1948 Olympian Barbara Ann Scott is profiled in 1964. 11:05

2. Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul (pairs)

Canadian titles: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960

Other highlights: World champions in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960; Olympic gold in 1960

Even if you don't recognize the names, these two took pairs skating dominance out of Europe and on to home soil.

3. Elvis Stojko (men)

Canadian titles: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002

Other highlights: World champion in 1994, 1995, 1997; Olympic silver in 1994, 1998

"Take no prisoners" was Elvis' unapologetic skating philosophy. He made figure skating look cool.

4. Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall (ice dance)

Canadian titles: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988

Other highlights: World bronze medallists in 1986, 1987, 1988; Olympic bronze in 1988

The first Canadian team to show the world that ice dance wasn't only a European thing. Fresh. Dynamic. Charismatic.

5. Patrick Chan (men)

Canadian titles: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016

Other highlights: World champion in 2011, 2012, 2013; Olympics silver in 2014

A true skater's skater. Chan + blades + ice = magic.

Toronto native Patrick Chan finished first overall in the men's program at the Cup of China in Beijing on Saturday with a winning score of 279.72. 8:49

6. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dance)

Canadian titles: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014

Other highlights: World champions in 2010, 2012; Olympic gold in 2010, Olympic silver in 2014

Long after their competitive career is done, these two will be remembered for some of the best skating ever, and for putting the dance back in ice dance.

The Canadian duo won the ice dance title at the ISU Grand Prix final with a total score of 197.22 points 8:13

7. Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler (pairs)

Canadian titles: 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994

Other highlights: World champions in 1993; Olympic bronze in 1992, 1994

I have a particular fondness for skaters who have the ability to capture my attention with great skating while making me want to cover my eyes at their death-defying feats. The very best kind of roller coaster.

8. Karen Magnussen (ladies)

Canadian titles: 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973

Other highlights: World champion in 1973; Olympics silver in 1972

Karen is on the list not only because of her amazing skating chops but also for being lovely in 2010 when I nervously met my childhood skating idol.

9. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (pairs)

Canadian titles: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Other highlights: World champions in 2015, 2016

This team's determination to accept challenges as a call to do better impresses me. So do back-to-back world titles -- the first for a Canadian pair since Wagner and Paul in the 1960s.

The Canadian duo of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their second consecutive pairs title on Saturday, finishing first overall at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships in Boston with a total score of 231.99. 8:28

10. Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz (ice dance)

Canadian titles: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 

Other highlights: World champions in 2003; world silver in 2002; world bronze in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999

A partnership that lasts for over a decade through thick and thin should be celebrated.

Who's on your top-10 list? Give me your picks on Twitter @skatingpj.

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