19 September 1932. On the quays of the port of Barcelona many people have assembled to watch the sixth edition of the crossing of the port organized by the swimming club Club Natació Barcelona. Some have been able to see the start of the race from the quay of Martell, others enjoy a terrific sight from boats that are anchored in the harbour or witness the arrival on the quay near the Barceloneta and the Palau del Mar (now Museum of the History of Catalonia).
Temperatures are beginning to get lower now that autumn is near, but that did not deter the nearly three hundred swimmers. One of them is Josefina Torrents i Illa, with her 30 years a veteran in perfect shape.
In an article covering the events newspaper La Vanguardia wrote that she had a ‘great mastery of style’, which enabled her to arrive in 50 minutes and 46 secons, the first of the four woman swimmers and sixth in the final rankings. President Macià and his wife Eugènia Lamarca who had witnessed the contest personally congratulated her with this feat. It was one of Torrents’ big successes, but certainly not her only one.
At the age of 15 Josefina had joined the Club Natació Barcelona that had been founded in 1907 and was therefore the oldest swimming club of Spain. After having trained alone for some time, she put herself under the care of the North American coach Dr. Thompson in order to improve her style. A smart move, because she became one of the stars of the Club.
Between 1930 and 1934 she took part in many races breaking records on the 800 m, 1.000 m and 1.500 m freestyle. Her victory in the Barcelona contest was amply covered in the media qualifying it as a superb competition. After this Torrents was treated as a heroe.
But Torrents did not go in for sports for the sake of fame and personal gain alone. In 1928 she had been one of the founders of the Club Femení i d’Esports (more information about this club in a later article). She took a principal role in all its activities and filled its presidency from 1933 till its forced closing due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
Up till then the club had enabled her to practice a number of other sports, such as mountaineering, fencing, riding, hockey and basketball. When the Club was shut down, Torrents also stopped practising sports. Over the years she only continued to do her yoga exercises which she maintained until shortly before her death in 2006.
Source and copyright of the photos: Generalitat de Catalunya. Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya taken by Gabriel Casas i Galobardes