Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl (left) and Christinna Pedersen with their daughter Molly.(HT Photo)
Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl (left) and Christinna Pedersen with their daughter Molly.(HT Photo)

Winning pair on the badminton court, loving couple off it

After a few years in the Danish national badminton set up, where Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl became close friends, they realised that their friendship had grown into love.
By Sandip Sikdar | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 07, 2020 10:27 AM IST

A few passersby stopped to smile and say “hello” to Molly, who was in a playful mood, amusing herself with toys in the hotel lobby. But the one-year-old, who has just recently learnt to walk, tripped and her parents—Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl—came rushing to attend to her.

Pedersen and Rytter Juhl, tall, lithe, and dressed in identical black sporting jackets, together make one of the most successful women’s doubles pairs in badminton. Last year, after a decade of threatening Asia’s dominance—with a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics and three world championship medals to show for it—the two players retired from the game and embarked on a new adventure—parenthood.

But it was badminton that brought them together, and led them on a journey of self discovery. They met each other for the first time while playing badminton, and after a few years in the Danish national badminton set up, where they became close friends, they realised that their friendship had grown into love.

“In the beginning it was fantastic but also a difficult and hard period because neither of us had thought or expected to be in love with another girl. But I just completely fell in love with Kamilla and we needed to figure out what to do back in 2009,” says Pedersen, who is currently playing the Premier Badminton League (PBL) for Awadhe Warriors. “We just developed feelings for each other which we felt was completely right and true. We wanted to be together and so after a lot of talk we told our friends and families, who supported us at that time.”

Though they informed their loved ones, the Danish couple did not open up about their relationship to the world as they wanted the focus to remain strictly on their game. It was only after their silver at Rio 2016 that the couple decided to come out publicly.

“Before we came out and told our story it was important to just be known as good badminton players instead of being known as two girls who are together. It wasn’t that we had been hiding (our relationship) the past years but we had to protect ourselves,” says the 33-year-old Pedersen, who also has a mixed doubles bronze from 2012 London Olympics.

Initially worried about the repercussions of coming out, the Danish couple were overwhelmed with the support they got.

“We didn’t know what to expect but after the story was told we could really feel the support from all around the world. It was an amazing feeling to receive hundreds of positive messages. Everyone was really positive. It was fantastic,” says Pedersen, who was ranked as high as world No.2 in women’s doubles and No.1 in mixed. “We could feel that people were respecting us.”

Women athletes have led the way in claiming space for LGBTQ sportspeople—from New Zealand cricketers Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu who got married in 2017, British boxer Nicola Adams and American football star Megan Rapinoe—a gay icon—to South Africa’s Caster Semenya and India’s Dutee Chand, the only openly gay athlete in the country.

“It is very important that people feel safe to step out and say that ‘we are in a same sex relationship’,” says Rytter Juhl, 36. “It’s okay for us to be role models but is it necessary? Unfortunately, it is.

“For me it should just be okay to be who you are, same sex relationship or not. It’s not like we want to promote anything. We just want to be us. It’s important that men also feel that it is okay for them (to be who they are).”

Fellow Danish ice hockey star Jon Lee-Olsen made headlines in October 2019 when he decided to come out on live television.

“It’s good that people aren’t afraid anymore,” says Rytter Juhl, who has won the European Championships seven times—four with Pedersen. “In Denmark it’s very common to see same sex relationships, for both men and women.”

Denmark has always been at the forefront when it comes to recognising the rights of the LGBTQ community—it was the first country in the world to grant legal recognition to same sex unions, in the form of registered partnerships, in 1989 (same sex marriages were legalised in 2012).

“We are just pleased we live in 2020. It could have been more difficult 50 or 100 years ago. I am pleased that the world is changing and people respect a family like ours. We are also lucky because in Denmark it is common to have kids even if you are two women who are together,” says Pedersen.

After experiencing the joys (and the occasional pain) of a glittering sporting career, the decision to start a family flowed naturally.

“It was easy to decide that it was time for a new chapter, time for us to have a baby. It was totally an automatic decision and we could just feel it was the right time for us to start a family together,” says Pedersen. “Now we are really enjoying our motherhood, every day and every moment.”

Molly is now at the centre of their lives. The couple—who still play in the Danish league as well as in the PBL—try to manage their schedule in such a way that they get to spend as much time as possible with their daughter.

“It’s different, funny, tough—all kinds of mixed feelings,” says Rytter Juhl. “Some days you think everything is wonderful and you want to have 10 children. The next day you think it is tough to have just one. But most of the time it’s amazing.”

Molly is also made a part of their travel plans. In India for the first time, the one-year-old has already taken strolls in the streets of Chennai and Lucknow and is currently in Hyderabad to see her mother, Pedersen, in action.

Rytter Juhl took Molly to the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium where she had won her only gold at the World Championships—in mixed doubles in 2009.

“Just to step inside the stadium, see and feel when we won the World Championship… it was so special going there with Molly. I still get goosebumps!”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2018. Tennis balls are pictured in front of the Australian Open logo before the tennis tournament. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2018. Tennis balls are pictured in front of the Australian Open logo before the tennis tournament. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo(REUTERS)

2 test positive for COVID-19 in Australian Open qualifying

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 08:00 AM IST
Tennis Australia confirmed in a statement there’d been two positive tests at the tournament and both men had been transferred to a government-run medi-hotel, where strict quarantine procedures were in place.
Close
File photo of Tennys Sandgren(REUTERS)
File photo of Tennys Sandgren(REUTERS)

Sandgren allowed to board Australian Open flight despite positive test

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 12:34 PM IST
Sandgren said on Twitter he had tested positive in November and returned another positive test on Monday and might not be able to board the flight, one of 15 carrying players and coaching staff to the first Grand Slam of the year.
Close
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Semi Final - Manchester United v Manchester City - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - January 6, 2021 Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks dejected after the match Pool via REUTERS/Peter Powell/File photo(Pool via REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Semi Final - Manchester United v Manchester City - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - January 6, 2021 Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks dejected after the match Pool via REUTERS/Peter Powell/File photo(Pool via REUTERS)

Man United and Liverpool to meet in 4th round of FA Cup

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:02 AM IST
They are currently the top two in the Premier League. Between them they have won 19 FA Cups.
Close
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: John Isner of the United States serves against Sebastian Korda of the United States.(AFP)
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: John Isner of the United States serves against Sebastian Korda of the United States.(AFP)

Isner says he'll skip Australian Open because of COVID-19

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:57 AM IST
Isner, a former top 10 player now ranked 25th, lost to Korda 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Korda and American Christian Harrison each won playing in his first career quarterfinal.
Close
West Ham's manager David Moyes walks on the pitch at the end of the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Stockport County and West Ham United at Edgeley Park in Stockport, England, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Martin Rickett/Pool via AP)(AP)
West Ham's manager David Moyes walks on the pitch at the end of the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Stockport County and West Ham United at Edgeley Park in Stockport, England, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Martin Rickett/Pool via AP)(AP)

West Ham squeeze past non-league Stockport 1-0 in FA Cup

AP
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2021 07:00 AM IST
It earned West Ham a home match against third-tier Doncaster in the fourth round.
Close
Photo of Indian badminton player PV Sindhu.(Twitter)
Photo of Indian badminton player PV Sindhu.(Twitter)

India shuttlers look to shake off pandemic blues

UPDATED ON JAN 11, 2021 10:31 PM IST
  • PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth are among players who will feature in the three-leg Asia Series.
Close
File image of Sofia Kenin(AP)
File image of Sofia Kenin(AP)

Kenin and Svitolina lose in Abu Dhabi Open quarterfinals

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 11, 2021 09:59 PM IST
  • Kenin lost to ninth-seeded Maria Sakkari 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the quarterfinals. Svitolina lost to unseeded Russian Veronika Kudermetova 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (3).
Close
File photo of Paris St Germain's Neymar(REUTERS)
File photo of Paris St Germain's Neymar(REUTERS)

Back from injury, Neymar resumes training with PSG

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 11, 2021 08:50 PM IST
Neymar has been sidelined since he was taken off on a stretcher in stoppage time on Dec. 13 when PSG lost at home to Lyon 1-0 in the French league.
Close
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at his mobile phone next to The Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at his mobile phone next to The Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, Japan, March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo(REUTERS)

Government decree saves Italy from Olympic suspension

AP, Rome
PUBLISHED ON JAN 26, 2021 05:20 PM IST
It was one of the final acts of Giuseppe Conte’s government before the premier headed to the presidential palace to offer his resignation amid an unrelated political crisis.
Close
Representational image.(REUTERS)
Representational image.(REUTERS)

Tokyo Olympic Q&A: Officials try to explain how games happen

AP, Tokyo
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 04:05 PM IST
There's also a skeptical Japanese public. Recent polls suggest 80% want the games postponed again or canceled.
Close
Sean Desai(Twitter)
Sean Desai(Twitter)

Sean Desai becomes first NFL coordinator of Indian descent

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 26, 2021 10:40 AM IST
"We are very fortunate and excited to promote from within and announce Sean Desai has been named defensive coordinator for our football team," Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy said in a statement.
Close
PT Usha(Rajesh Kashyap/HT Photo)
PT Usha(Rajesh Kashyap/HT Photo)

PT Usha delighted as coach OM Nambiar awarded Padma Shri

By Avishek Roy
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 10:05 AM IST
The legendary coach is among seven sports personalities named in the government awards list on Monday.
Close
File photo of wrestling.(File)
File photo of wrestling.(File)

Indian wrestlers aiming for four medals in Tokyo, says WFI president

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 11:05 PM IST
Four Indian wrestlers -- Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Deepak Punia -- have booked their spots for the Tokyo Games, which are due to open on July 23 after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus.
Close
A banner of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games.(AP)
A banner of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games.(AP)

Olympics would be 'extremely difficult' for unvaccinated athletes: France

AFP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 10:42 PM IST
Denis Masseglia warned that unvaccinated athletes who went to the Games in Japan faced "quarantine of a fortnight" and "will have to undergo tests in the mornings and evenings".
Close
Mouma Das. File(REUTERS)
Mouma Das. File(REUTERS)

TT player Mouma Das, six other sportspersons awarded Padma Shri

PTI
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 10:52 PM IST
Every year, the award winners are announced on the eve of Republic Day. The Padma awardees are felicitated by the President of India.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP