Ulla Strand (née Rasmussen) was born on March 21, 1943. She began training at the Københavns Badminton Klub and would continue to train at this club throughout her badminton career. Strand’s older sister, Karin, also played badminton and the sisters competed as a pair in Women’s Doubles. In both 1960 and 1961, Strand won the Danish U18 National Championships in Girls’ Singles. Shortly after, she challenged herself by debuting on the international circuit. As soon as 1962, Strand won her first All England title in Mixed Doubles with Finn Kobberø at the young age of 19 years old. Strand had just celebrated her birthday on the first day of that tournament. At the same All England, she played with her sister, Karin Jørgensen (née Rasmussen), in Women’s Doubles. The sisters went through all the way to finals but ended up losing to Judy Hashman (née Devlin) and Tonny Holst-Christensen.
The year of 1962 was a good medal harvest for Strand. Aside from her All England title, Strand double crowned at both the Dutch Open and Nordic Games. At the Dutch Open, she played Women’s Doubles with Bente Flindt and Mixed Doubles with Oon Chong Teik from Malaysia. At the Nordic Games, she switched partners and played once again with Jørgensen, and Mixed Doubles with Poul-Erik Nielsen. Despite having most of her results in the pair events, Strand also won a title at the Swedish Open in Women’s Singles. Later that year brought in more titles in Women’s Doubles with Kirsten Dahl at the Tröbitz International Tournament and another title at the World Invitation Tournament with Jørgensen.
The next year, Strand and Jørgensen partnered up again for the All England. The 1963 All England marked the beginning of a very fierce sister-duo rivalry. It was a sister-duo showdown with the former Rasmussen sisters facing off the former Devlin sisters - Judy Hashman and Sue Peard. The former Devlin sisters emerged victorious and walked off with the 1963 All England title that year. Strand had better luck in Mixed Doubles with Kobberø and the pair won their second consecutive Mixed Doubles title at the All England. The Nordic Games took place later that year with the individual championships involving players from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Strand displayed her domination by winning the Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles with Jørgensen and Mixed Doubles with Henning Borch.
Strand and Jørgensen campaigned a third time for that elusive Women’s Doubles title at the 1964 All England. Once again, they faced off the former Devlin sisters in the final. Strand and Jørgensen proved that the third time’s the charm as they finally defeated Hashman and Peard 15-11, 6-15, 15-10. Unfortunately, Strand was unable to claim a double crown at the 1964 All England as she and her mixed partner, Kobberø, were unable to defend their Mixed Doubles title in the final.
The 1965 All England would be her most successful campaign for medals. Strand made it to the finals for all three events. In Women’s Singles, Strand played Ursula Smith and lost 7-11, 7-11. Strand would even the score against Smith by denying Smith and her partner, Jennifer Pritchard, the title in Women’s Doubles. Strand and Jørgensen defeated Smith and Pritchard 15-10, 15-0 to cinch their second consecutive title at the All England. Spectators had a chance to watch Strand face off Pritchard a third and final time for the Mixed Doubles final. Strand and Kobberø’s eventual victory over Pritchard and Tony Jordan secured Strand a double crown at the 1965 All England. Strand would continue her trend of multiple wins with a second consecutive triple crown at the 1965 Nordic Games.
Strand and Jørgensen’s reign in Women’s Doubles at the All England ended in 1966 when they met Hashman and Peard again in the final. Hashman and Peard defeated the other sister duo, 15-5, 14-17, 15-12. Despite her loss in the Women’s Doubles, Strand did not leave empty handed. She would take her fourth All England Mixed Doubles title with Kobberø home with her. Strand ended her year with a third consecutive triple crown at the Nordic Games.
The year of 1967 would mark the peak of Strand’s career. Strand proved her versatility by continuing to dominate in the pair events even when playing with different partners throughout the year. Strand played Women’s Doubles with Imre Rietveld and Mixed Doubles with Svend Pri at 1967 All England. Both partnerships were successful and Strand double crowned at that tournament. She partnered Pri again at the Danish Open and the pair took that title as well. Strand would add another title to her resume with Rietveld at the Dutch Open. She played with Per Walsøe at the German Open and the pair won the gold medal. In 1967, Strand would drop her streak of triple crowns at the Nordic Games but she still managed to secured a double crown by winning the Mixed Doubles with Erland Kops and Women’s Doubles with Lizbeth von Barnekow. Later on, Strand would redeem herself in Women’s Singles by winning the Norwegian International and Swedish Open. She also won Women’s Doubles with Lonny Funch at the same event to achieve a double crown at the Swedish Open.
After such a successful year, Strand would have to wait until 1971 for her next title at the All England. This title would be in Mixed Doubles with Pri. Once she regained her momentum, Strand and Pri won the Danish Open and next year’s All England as well. She would hold the Mixed Doubles title at the Danish Open for another two years with a different partner, Elo Hansen. At the 1972 Olympic Games Demonstration Event in Munich, Strand and Pri lost to Derek Talbot and Gillian Gilks 6-15, 16-18 in the final. She also failed to win the Women’s Singles after losing to Noriko Nakajama 5-11, 9-11.
Strand won a grand total of 10 All England titles out of the 15 finals that she reached. She also won 19 Nordic Games titles and 7 Danish Open titles. At the Danish National Championships, Strand won 21 titles. Seven of these titles were won with her sister, Karin Jørgensen, and 8 titles were veteran titles.
Strand obviously loved competing in badminton because after her senior career, she moved on to add titles in the master events to her resume. She debuted her domination in master events at the 1989 World Master Games with a gold medal in 40+ Mixed Doubles with Thomas Kihlstrøm. Strand won another 2 titles with Kirsten Jørgensen at the 1990 and 1992 All England Veteran’s Championship. Three years later, she would grab a title in Mixed Doubles with Leif Hansen. At the 1995 European Senior Championships, Strand won the 50+ Mixed Doubles with Hansen and 50+ Women’s Doubles with Kirsten Jørgensen.
Badminton Denmark described Strand as creative, technically strong and eminent in reading the opponent's play. They named her as one of the best Danish all-round players in the 60s and early 70s. Strand and her sister, Karin Jørgensen, were remembered as a delightful team with lively personalities. The badminton historian, Pat Davis, described the pair as “two Danish girls who brought charm and talent to badminton in the 1960s.”
Strand was awarded the Badminton Danmarks fortjensttegn (Badminton Denmark Meritorious Award) and inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 1995.
After a long battle with illness, Ulla Strand passed away on August 7, 2007.
INDIVIDUAL AWARDS (in order by year)
1999 – IBF Hall of Fame
1999 – Badminton Danmarks fortjensttegn (Badminton Denmark Meritorious Award)
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
Danmarks Badminton Forbund gennem 75 år (DBF)
Encyclopedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Guinness Book of Badminton (Pat Davis)
International Badminton … the first 75 years (BWF)
-- By Yves Lacroix