On September 21, 1914, Tonny Kristine Olsen was born in Ordrup, a city north of Copenhagen, Denmark. She began training at the Gentofte Badminton Klub and went on to reign as a badminton royal for over three decades. During her reign on the international circuit, she would accumulate more than 39 titles from 1934 to 1957. Her maiden international title was at the 1934 Dutch Open. She partnered up with Bodil Clausen to take the gold medal in Women’s Doubles. They would play again the next year and successfully defend their title for a second consecutive win. At the 1935 Dutch Open, Olsen also won the Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles title with K. Sandvad to triple crown at the event. The following year, Olsen would play with another partner, Bodil Rilse, at the 1936 Dutch Open to tie off her three-year domination in Women’s Doubles. In addition to her Women’s Doubles title, she won the other two events to complete another triple crown. Her wins in Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles with Sandvad would be her second consecutive titles in both events at the Dutch Open.
In 1936, Denmark hosted its inaugural Danish Open in Copenhagen. Partnering up with Rilse, Olsen won the first ever Danish Open Women’s Doubles title in her home country. In that same year, Olsen won her first national titles in Women’s Doubles with Bodil Strømann and Mixed Doubles with Poul Vagn Nielsen. From then on, she would continue to accumulate a total of 26 national titles from 1936 to 1957. Twelve of these titles were in Women’s Singles and she would win her last title in singles at the age of 42 years old. Two years later, Olsen began her Women’s Singles reign at the 1939 Danish Open. She won the Danish Open Women’s Singles title an astounding 7 consecutive times from 1939 to 1951 despite the fact that it was not held from 1940 to 1945.
Olsen competed in her first All England Championships in 1938. She fell in the semi-final stage to the great Betty Uber. History has it that Olsen was suffering a toothache after leading 8-3 in the third game. Uber made 8 straight points to take the match 11-8, 7-11, 11-8. The next year, Olson’s singles campaign took a turn for worse when she was defeated in the quarterfinal stage by Dorothy Walton from Canada. Her Women’s Doubles campaign with Ruth Dalsgaard was met with success as the pair defeated Englishwomen Marjorie Barrett and Diana Doveton, 15-11, 2-15, 17-15, in the final round to take their first All England title.
With War World II affecting the entire world, the All England went on a temporarily hiatus from 1940 to 1946. In 1947, Tonny Olsen married Gunnar Ahm and returned to competition under the surname of her husband. With the All England resuming in 1947, Ahm added another Women’s Doubles title to her resume with Kirsten Thorndahl. From 1948 to 1950, Ahm and Thorndahl would meet the same pair, Betty Uber and Queenie Allen from England, in the final round for three years in a row. It was a brilliant rivalry between the British and Danish pairs. Ahm and Thorndahl would emerge victorious in 1948 and 1950. After losing the All England Women’s Doubles final in 1948, Betty Uber remarked, “the Danes were too fast, too severe and were also so full of confidence and belief that they could win.” At the 1949 All England, Uber and Allen would get their revenge. They handily defeated Ahm and Thorndahl in two straight games with the score of 15-8, 15-10, to the cheering of a record crowd turnout of 7000 strong.
The year of 1950 would be the first time that Ahm tripled crowned at the All England. That year, she partnered Poul Holm to win their second All England Mixed Doubles title together after their first title in 1947. Her Women’s Singles final against compatriot, Aase Schiøtt Jacobsen, only lasted 12 minutes with the scores of 11-4, 11-6. The Badminton Gazette (Badminton Association of England magazine) said, “She is a complete all-round player” – “There is no strike in the game which is foreign to her and she possesses a nice, easy style of play.” Ahm and Holm would continue to dominate Mixed Doubles at the All England for another two years. They won a total of four titles – one in 1947 and three consecutive titles from 1950 to 1952.
In 1951, Ahm and Thorndahl successfully defended their All England Women’s Doubles title against Mavis Henderson and Queenie Webber from England. After winning the Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles title at the All England three times, Ahm was awarded the All England trophy in both events to take home. Ahm met her longtime rivals, Uber and Allen, again in the final round of the 1952 All England Women’s Doubles event. This time, she played with Aase Schiøtt Jacobsen and defeated Uber and Allen in two straight games with the scores of 18-15, 15-4. Ahm also won Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles with Holm to triple crown again at the 1952 All England Open. In total, Ahm won 11 titles at the prestigious All England Championships.
After a four-year hiatus, Ahm made a brief comeback to represent Denmark in the inaugural Uber Cup named after her longtime rival, Betty Uber. She marked her return in January by double crowning at the Scottish Open in Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles with Tonny Petersen. Two months later, she played first singles for Denmark at the Uber Cup. The Danish team made it to the finals against USA. Unfortunately, Ahm lost her singles to Judy Devlin 2-11, 8-11, and the USA ended up winning the inaugural Uber Cup with a 6-1 win over Denmark. One week later, Ahm made her last appearance at the All England. She fell in the quarterfinal stage to Canadian Marjorie Shedd. Ahm accumulated one last title in Women’s Singles at the Danish National Championships to complete her last year in competitive badminton. Ahm was 42 years old.
Tonny Kristine Ahm passed away on April 7, 1993.
In 1997, Ahm was inducted posthumously into the International Badminton Federation Hall of Fame. She was among the first group of players to be awarded this honor. In the 2011 All England programme, writer Dominic Bliss dubbed her as “one of the 10 greatest All-Englanders.”
1986 – IBF Meritorious Service Award
1997 – BWF Hall of Fame
Badminton Danmarks fortjensttegn (Badminton Denmark Meritorious Award)
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
A Brief History of Badminton from 1870 to 1949 (Betty Uber)
All England Official Programme 2011
Danmarks Badminton Forbund gennem 75 år (DBF)
Encyclopaedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Gentofte Badminton Klub (www.gbk.dk)
Guinness Book of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Kendtes Gravsted (www.gravsted.dk)
-- By Yves Lacroix