The road to motherhood for Danish badminton players Christinna Pederson and Kamilla Rytter Juhl has been a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, growth and love.. The new mothers initially met over ten years ago as teammates while on tour and quickly became friends. But, as their friendship blossomed the two discovered that they didn’t just want to be friends. Yet, neither Pederson or Rytter Juhl had been in a relationship with another woman before but, their feelings for each other could not be denied. Sharing their story with BBC Pederson reflected…
“I had said ‘no way, I cannot be together with another girl’,” Pedersen, says. “But we could not avoid our feelings any more. They were getting stronger and stronger. I think because we took our time, suddenly we felt it was the right thing for us to be together.”
When the pair decided to enter a romantic relationship with each other they shared their love with family, friends, teammates and coaches. However, both Pederson and Rytter Juhl chose to keep their relationship private for the sake of their careers. Badminton is a popular sport throughout Asia and many Asian countries have anti-gay laws and cultural attitudes that would not be welcoming to Pederson and Rytter Juhl. More importantly it was about the athletes establishing themselves as badminton players first.
“It was also important for us to be known as the badminton players,” says Pedersen. “We wanted to show everybody that we were good at playing badminton, and not be known as the couple the newspapers would write about. We wanted them to tell the story of the badminton. After Rio, we felt we had shown the world that we are good at playing badminton, so the time could be right for us.”
In October 2017 in anticipation of the release of their biography “Det Unikke Makkerskab“ loosely translated as ”The Unique Partnership“ Pederson and Rytter Juhl shared their relationship and stories with the rest of the world on Danish television.
“We had nothing to be afraid of, because after we told our story it has been so positive, and we don’t feel uncomfortable anywhere in the world,” Rytter Juhl, says.
Pedersen adds: “We 100% feel safe. Out of 100 comments on social media, there could be one bad comment. We really feel secure when we travel around the world.”
Ten months later, the couple officially announced that Rytter Juhl would be retiring from Badminton, because she was pregnant! The news came just after the couple competed in their last tournament together, the 2018 All English Championships. In January 2019, the couple officially welcomed their daughter Molly into the world.
“Maybe it was meant to be, that we would have that last tournament and title and then we would become mums.” Rytter Juhl says.
The new mothers are very excited and elated to welcome their daughter into the world where they will be known by the Danish translation of “Mum K” and “Mum C.” The couple decided that Rytter Juhl should carry their first child as she is the older of the pair, though Pederson hopes to eventually give birth to Molly’s younger sibling.
“I have only ever known Kamilla as an athlete, as a badminton player, so to see her getting bigger and bigger, she was getting slower and slower.”
Taking inspiration from Serena Williams, who recently had a baby last year and returned to tennis. Rytter Juhl felt that taking a break from Badminton for her family was an easy decision.
“Maybe it’s because of my age that I feel OK with it,” she says. “It’s the right time. “ Rytter Juhl shared. “In one way, I miss it a little bit, and then on the other hand, I don’t miss it at all because it is very tough to be at the top. The pressure was so high.”
However, Rytter Juhl has not decided if she wants to return to the sport. In the meantime, Pederson is still competing, and the family is preparing to go on tour to cheer her on. The “All England” tournament in Birmingham will be Molly’s first “World Tour” event, but she has already been on the road.
“It’s so much different this year. I’m not bringing my racquet, I’m bringing Molly and a lot of diapers,” Rytter Juhl says. “It was always the plan [to travel with Molly]. Christinna wanted to be a part of this as much as I did. If we didn’t do this, Christinna would have to travel more than 100 days every year and we didn’t want to start a family like that.“
“We had our first tournament two weeks ago in Barcelona and we made a big list so we were sure we had everything. It was a much bigger list than normal!”
The loving mothers are enjoying this new journey and looking forward to a bright future for Molly.
By Dirk Smith