The Most Hated Skating Judge In Vienna

Jane Vaughn Sullivan

When Jane Vaughn won her two U.S. titles in 1941 and 1942, bombs were dropping overseas. Genocide and unspeakable horrors were taking place in Nazi concentration camps. When she retired from the sport after winning her second title, she married then First Lieutenant Henry Sullivan of the Air Army Corps Henry Sullivan (who went on to be a Commandant and the head of the Air Force Academy) and settled in Omaha, Nebraska where she remained active in the sport writing for "Skating" magazine and serving as an international judge at countless events.

It was at one of these international competitions, the 1967 World Championships in Vienna, Austria, that she made international headlines by outraging the Viennese audience and European skating community with her judging decisions.The March 2, 1967 issue of the "Victoria Advocate" gives us the gist of what went down in Vienna that year: "Mrs. Jane Sullivan of Omaha, Neb., was accused by Austrian and West German officials of erratic judging in the men's and pairs competitions. As the result of the complaints, she faces possible suspension by the International Skating Union. The American judge caused a furor in the Austrian press when she awarded minimum marks to Austrian title defender Emmerich Danzer in the men's compulsory figures Tuesday. One newspaper screamed 'scandalous judging - American general's wife dislikes Danzer' after Mrs. Sullivan put the local hero into 10th place. Her fellow judges placed him between first and third. Then she incurred the wrath of the West Germans by placing their favorite pairs skaters, Margot Glockshuber and Wolfgang Dannem, seventh in the [short program]. The other judges put the Germans in second place behind Russia's Ludmila Belousova [and] Oleg Protopopov, the title holders. What really riled West German coach Erich Zeller was that Mrs. Sullivan gave the highest marks to the American pair, Cynthia and Ronald Kauffman of Seattle, who completed the [short program] in second position. 'American judges are among the worst in the world,' Zeller said. 'It seems the United States is always sending them to Europe to be nasty to us.' Ernest Labin, Austrian vice-president of the ISU and head judge in the pairs competitions, said Mrs. Sullivan's championship record will be subject to an investigation by the ISU. 'We have had so many complaints about Mrs. Sullivan, we'll probably have to take action against her. I expect she will be suspended for some time.'" Seeing as no known footage exists of Danzer's figures or the pairs short program in its entirety, we can hardly speculate on whether or not Vaughn Sullivan's marks and ordinals were justified but based on Austria's well documented history of suspect judging, as the old saying goes... "those in glass houses should not throw stones."

As the competition continued, Sullivan became the target of the Viennese audiences. She was loudly booed whenever her name was announced as being one of the nine judges and constantly throughout the competition when she gave her marks. The March 4, 1967 issue of "The Day" noted, "She had the lowest scores for six of the twenty men skaters, including champion Danzer and runner-up Schwarz. She also gave [Scotty] Allen the lowest marks he received." The fact that it's noted that she gave Allen, a former Olympic Bronze Medallist from the United States with a strong international record, his lowest marks is a pretty poor talking point in any argument of national bias. It's also entirely possible she was just a low marker and that her ordinals were for the most part consistent with the rest of the panel. She could have been judging what she saw that day - as much judges do - and not bowed to bloc judging or other pressures. After all, the judging panel in the men's event that year was comprised of six European judges, Vaughn Sullivan and a judge apiece from Canada and Japan. In the pairs event, she and Canada's Donald Gilchrist were the only non-European judges. Although it's absolutely possible she WAS in the wrong (we weren't there) the evidence given in media accounts leans more in my eyes to the fact that she was most likely calling it as she saw it and not towing the line. John Shoemaker, then USFSA President, defended Sullivan in Vienna in the March 4, 1967 Independent Journal, saying "she has an outstanding record as a thoroughly honest judge. Otherwise she wouldn't be here." Shoemaker deferred the matter to the ISU... and a strange twist of fate actually played a pretty big role in allowing the whole hullabaloo to die down when the head of the Jane Sullivan witch hunt, ISU President Ernest Labin, died suddenly in Vienna that same year. Sullivan would go on to judge at future World and Olympic competitions, including the 1976 Games... in Austria. It looks like the most hated judge in Vienna in 1967 got the last laugh.

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