Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl can look back with contentment at a tremendous 2016 season. The Danes, currently No.2 in the World Rankings, won the Olympic silver and two World Superseries titles – the Yonex Open Japan and the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open – which made it their career’s most successful season. They also performed well at the Dubai World Superseries Finals, finishing in the last four. Their post-Rio form was in marked contrast to the months before the Olympics, when they fell in the first round of three straight Superseries.
In a chat with Badminton Unlimited, they relive their experiences from Rio and what winning the silver means to them:
On their Superseries Form
Kamilla Rytter Juhl: When I think back, it’s difficult to understand that we’ve won two Superseries tournaments after the Olympics. We have been struggling with our shape and motivation but we have found a way to motivate ourselves and that is important, to think where you are now and what you can focus on to produce good results.
Preparation for Rio
Christinna Pedersen: Instead of just focusing on the game and thinking about the medal, we went, “Alright, we’re here.” It was Kamilla’s third Olympics and my second. So we should also be happy and proud that we were on our way to one more Olympic tournament.
Rytter Juhl: When we saw the draw on our computer, we were not very satisfied with the group. We both thought, “It’s a tough group.” We could easily see three pairs going through and there were only places for two.
Recovering from Loss
Rytter Juhl: We started out against the Luo sisters. We have always felt that it is difficult to play them but this time we felt we were ready and we had so much energy and really looked forward to get going. And it was such a bad experience for us because we lost in two sets. That was the worst start you could ever have in the Olympics.
Pedersen: (Against Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee) We knew that the first set was really important for us, for our confidence, because if we had lost after missing, I think it was 6 or 7 set points, if we had lost, our mind could have been, “Oh it’s difficult against them, we can’t beat them.” But we got that first set and got some confidence.
Winning the Semi-final
Rytter Juhl: It was always our goal in a tournament to play our best. And we already did that. The mission was almost completed. So it was a bonus from then on. Of course when you’re in the semi-final you really want to have a medal. And we knew that if we lost, we had to play one more match to get a medal. So we didn’t want to go to the bronze medal play-off.
Fighting for Gold
Pedersen: It’s difficult to remember all the parts but I remember when it was 14-all, I thought, “We are still here, we’re not behind, it can still happen.” We had to work hard and we kept on going because we had a chance against them.
We pushed and did all we could and were up 19-16 and we had our chances. But of course it was disappointing when you are up 19-16 in the decider and not win the match. But we’ve seen the last five rallies and we could see that the Japanese girls were playing really good. It seemed for them, “We were so close to losing to the Danish pair today, let’s give it our last shot.” And they succeeded. That’s thirst in Rio. Unlucky for us, so close, yet so far.
Rytter Juhl: It was so special to be on the podium. It’s really a dream come true. There is a lot of feeling when we talk about it and a lot of emotion. For sure the best moment of our career together. Such a big moment.
Pedersen: Sometimes it’s difficult to understand that we played in the Olympic final. I think when I said that loud, “We were in the Olympics final.” I’m proud and happy.
Rytter Juhl: I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. So of course that’s a great feeling to have. That’s also why we can keep up with our level because we know that we have done everything we can to produce a lot of good results so that’s a great feeling when you play because you don’t feel any pressure.
Watch the interview on Badminton Unlimited: