You couldn’t have asked for a more difficult debut.

Vancouver’s Audrey Williams, a figure skating judge since the age of fifteen, made her Olympic debut judging the women’s figure skating at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer.

Williams was only vaguely aware of the firestorm she was about to walk into. You might recall it: Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding, and the biggest controversy to explode in world figure skating in years. After a few 747’s had landed full of hungry media before the first women’s practice of the Games, it sounded like war in the arena with the camera shutters snapping the two feuding skaters’ every move.

With thirty-five years of experience to that point, Williams faced the pressure-packed media circus with her customary grace and smile and judged at her best. For this province’s first female Olympic figure skating judge, she’d reached the peak of a fifty-year climb to the top of the figure skating world and nothing could faze her.

Vancouver and figure skating have been two constants throughout Williams’ entire lifetime. She remembers catching the cross-town streetcar to skate at the Forum, which during her childhood was still a block and a half outside the city limits at Hastings and Renfrew. Seeing Sonja Henie in the 1941 film Sun Valley Serenade first inspired her to seriously take up skating. Not long after she was part of the same Connaught Club skating carnival as Barbara Ann Scott. Barbara was the headliner; Williams was a tree in an awful green satin dress, but the young girl was spellbound by the elder skater’s delicate grace on ice.

Williams became a championship skater herself in pairs for three straight years between 1952-54 with partner Brian Power winning the western Canadian pairs competition and finishing second at nationals behind reigning world champions Francis Dafoe and Norris Bowden.

Appointed a national judge in 1959, she judged the first of over thirty Canadian championships in her career in 1961. By 1967, Williams was appointed an international judge by the ISU and went on to judge numerous international competitions including the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, six world championships, and four world junior championships. Williams remains the only native female British Columbian to serve as an Olympic judge in figure skating. In 1984, she was appointed as an ISU Referee, leading to countless referee assignments at international competitions. In that time, she judged many of the giants of the ice: Toller Cranston, Petra Burka, Kurt Browning, Brian Orser, and Karen Magnussen.

Earlier, she served as Canadian team leader for female skaters at the 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo, fostering the environment that allowed Magnussen the opportunity to capture Canada’s only medal—a silver—of the Games. A huge believer in volunteerism and giving back to her sport what she got out, Williams served on countless provincial and national committees ranging from skater development to official development to judging.

Boundless energy, smiling and styling in equal quantities, Williams mentored dozens of individuals over the years, many of whom rose to prominent roles at the sport’s provincial, national, and international levels.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.