RIO DE JANEIRO —
Imagine training and competing for years in an individual sport to try to reach your goal of competing in the Olympics, only to have your hopes dashed by a decision off the field of play.
That's what happened to Juul Franssen, a Dutch judoka (an expert in judo).
Franssen has had success at every level of her sport, winning European Championships in three age categories: U17 in 2006, U20 in 2008, and U23 in 2012 and 2013, all in the 57 kg weight class.
She also was a two-time national champion at 57 kg, and, after moving up to the 63 kg weight class, won the title again last year.
Franssen, 26, qualified for the Olympics by virtue of her results, but so did her teammate Anicka van Emden, 29, who won the Dutch national title at 70 kg last year, but then moved down in weight class.
Juul Franssen, an alternate on the Dutch judoka team (63kg class), relaxes in Rio until she's called to practice with her Olympic teammates.
In Olympic judo, there can only be one competitor from a country in each weight category, and the Dutch Judo Association selected van Emden over Franssen.
Franssen said she was heartbroken, especially because it was supposed to be a two-year qualifying process, but the association ended up cutting it short by four months and made its decision in February.
"There was no specific criteria for it," Franssen told VOA, "so the association can decide whatever they want. It's a closure for me. It's a closed chapter, and now I'm here for the other ones who are competing here and I hope they win a medal."
She was chosen as an alternate and is in Rio as a training partner and helping those who made the team.
Because she is an alternate, Franssen cannot stay in the Olympic Village and has been put up in other housing.
As for training, she said she gets a text message, usually around 10:30 a.m., about when she is needed as a practice partner. After training, Franssen said she is usually free to do what she wants, but she has to be available at any hour of the day if needed.
"Of course I am jealous they are here competing and I am not, but I want them to do well. I will be cheering for them. I will be nervous when I am sitting in the crowd watching," she said.
Franssen said she isn't letting the disappointment of not making the 2016 Dutch Olympic judo team discourage her, saying she aims to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.