This article was last updated on November 30, 2023
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Handball mothers Lieder and Abbingh at the World Cup: ‘Here I am a top athlete again’
As proud mothers, handball players Lois Abbingh and Tess Lieder (formerly Wester) return to the World Cup podium on Thursday. The two are tense about being away from home for such a long period of time. “But here you can suddenly take a nap again in the afternoon.”
Upon entering the hotel room in Frederikshavn, Denmark, the usually noisy Lieder and Abbingh fall silent for a moment on Tuesday. After a journey of several hours, the two were both completely surprised by a photo of their newborn child on the bedside table.
Lieder grabs the photo of her one-year-old daughter Flo and her husband Mart. The thirty-year-old goalkeeper did not want to wait until after her career to become a mother. “But since then I have asked myself whether I would play handball again and whether I could still join the Dutch team,” she says.
On the other side of the bed in front of 31-year-old Abbingh is a photo of Joost and her one-year-old son Lev. “I couldn’t have imagined that we would ever be like this,” Abbingh laughs. “I never thought I would do this during my career. In my head it wasn’t an option.”
Abbingh and Lieder not only share a room at the World Cup in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They are best friends outside the hall and also sisters-in-law. The whole family comes together to the matches in Denmark during the tournament.
The two can turn to each other for advice, but also bombard Estavana Polman with questions. She has already attended a final tournament as the mother of her now six-year-old daughter Jesslyn. “Only now you can explain to Jesslyn exactly what is happening,” says Lieder.
“When I leave, it’s ‘bye, bye’. And five minutes later she has forgotten it again,” Lieder continues, who takes difficult moments into account. “There will be days when I would rather have played on the floor with Flo for five hours and taken the pram to the petting zoo.”
That is precisely why, according to Abbingh, it is ideal for them to share a room together. “In a situation like this, it is very nice to be with someone who understands. In any case, we do not think so quickly about each other: facetime again or another video?”
‘Here I can be a full-time top athlete again’
It will be Lieder’s fifth World Cup, and Abbingh’s seventh global final tournament. Yet as a mother everything is different. “I really notice that I am a different athlete,” says Lieder. “Not that I want less, I think I want even more.”
In the past, a bad match could stay in Lieder’s head for days. “But now you are forced to let it go at home. It certainly still matters to me, but it is no longer the most important thing in the world. A bad match does not make you a bad person.”
Abbingh, who plays for the Norwegian Vipers Kristiansand, also enjoys the distraction off the field. “Sometimes it is difficult, but in general life as a mother and a top athlete is very nice,” she says. “You often train in the morning and then have the whole day to spend together.”
And, there are also advantages of the World Cup with the Dutch team. “Physically, you are really on 24/7 at home,” says Lieder. “But here you can suddenly rest in the afternoon and take a nap again. It sounds very stupid, but here I can be a full-time top athlete again. That is not possible at home.”
Program for the first group stage of the Netherlands at the World Cup
November 30, 6 p.m.: Netherlands-Argentina
December 2, 6 p.m.: Congo-Netherlands
December 4, 8:30 PM: Netherlands-Czech Republic
During the World Cup, in addition to medals, the Netherlands also competes for a place at the Olympic Games in Paris. The world champion qualifies for the Games and that ticket can move on. Norway (European champion) and France (organiser of the Games) are already certain of participation.