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Motherhood, Comeback Come Easy for Harmes
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Less than a year after becoming a mother, 2004 Dutch Olympian Suzanne Harmes told IG she is eager to test her renewed fitness level at next month's European Championships.

Harmes at the 2004 Olympics

"I still really loved the sport, so when I went back to the gym I wasn't bothered where it would lead," said Harmes, who gave birth to son Lugano last May 24. "I just wanted to try gymnastics again. I am really glad that it all went so easily. Qualifying for Europeans wasn't a problem, and it made me really happy. I'm getting a lot of positive responses from other gymnasts in the Netherlands, that they like the fact that I'm back in the game so quickly."

The 22-year-year-old Harmes has been named to the Dutch team for the European Championships that will take place April 3-6 in Ferrand-Clermont, France. She placed first in the first of two qualification competitions that decided the Dutch team for Europeans.

Also named to the Dutch senior team were Lichelle Wong, Anne Tritten, Sanne Wevers and Verona van de Leur.

The Dutch junior team for the European Championships consists of Wyomi Masela, Natasha Blind, Cerine van Gerner, Yvette Moshage and Naoual Ouassani Chadi.

Harmes, who placed third on floor exercise and 10th all-around at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, told IG this week she has a different perspective on gymnastics now that she is a mother.

"It really felt very comfortable and familiar very quickly," she said. "I think I changed a bit as a gymnast. I have a different outlook on life now that I am a mom, and my main responsibility is the well-being of my son. My coaches say that it has also changed my attitude in training. I'm not so stressed anymore when things don't work out right away in the gym, and that's one of the reasons I'm actually better in training than before."

Harmes said she was not concerned about the weight she gained during her pregnancy, and that she returned to her pre-pregnancy weight less than three months after Lugano’s birth.

"Now, I'm actually slimmer and lighter than I was before," Harmes said. "I didn't do anything specific to lose that extra weight. What I did do is start fitness exercises about two months after giving birth, so that I could slowly regain my strength and muscle power. I really noticed in the beginning that I had lost so much power. Now, I actually feel more fit than ever before!"

Harmes, who finished 42nd all-around in preliminaries at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, said she has new incentives for training and competing.

"My motivation is that I find it a challenge to see what skills I can still do, and that I really love being a gymnast," she said. "Also, I'm not putting pressure on myself on reaching certain goals. As long as I enjoy myself and my body handles it well, I will keep going."

Based on the Dutch women’s 17th-place team finish at the 2007 Worlds in Stuttgart last year, they have qualified only one gymnast for this summer’s Beijing Olympic Games. Harmes, who did not compete at the 2006 or 2007 Worlds, said she is confident that she can earn that spot, but will be satisfied regardless of which Dutch gymnast is chosen.

"I stand a real chance, but of course there is only one ticket and more than one gymnast that can achieve the qualification norm," she said. "I just train all four apparatus, and if I make it to the Olympics (a second time), that's super. If not, it's bad luck for me but not the end of the world. I had never thought a year ago that I would even make it this far in gymnastics again, so I just enjoy every moment and see where it leads me."

IG Magazine Related Feature:

"Double Dutch" – Harmes profile (May 2005)

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