When athletics is your passion

In the 1920s two young men and a little girl get up every day at 4.00 a.m., leave their home in Badalona and travel to the Montjuïc stadium of Barcelona. The men do their daily training, while the girl is watching them. Little do they know that in later years the men’s sportive successes will be eclipsed by the girl. This is the story of track and field athlete Anna Maria Tugas i Masachs (1911-2015).

When Anna was about one year old, her father died. In retrospect, this tragedy determined the course of her life. Anna was left in the care of her brothers Felip and Josep who were dedicated athletes training and competing with flying colours at home and abroad in the four most prominent throwing for distance sports in track and field: discus throw, hammer throw, javelin throw and shot put. As they did not want to leave their little sister at home, they took her with them in order to keep an eye on her.

She did not have a very strong constitution, so when she was about 17 the brothers encouraged her to train with them to build up her strength. Watching them in the stadium, Anna had become very enthousiastic about athletics and eagerly put on her espardenyes and began developing her sporting skills. Although she tried out almost every discipline, like her brothers she favoured above all the throwing sports.

But Anna was not satisfied with training alone. So two years later she signed up for an athletics festival in Badalona. Felip and Josep opposed the initiative; they approved of Anna’s trainings, participating in competitions was quite another matter. But she was adamant and went ahead with her plan. Even though she did not win, the contest turned out to be the first step towards a brilliant career in track and field.

Anna Tugas can be considered one of the pioneers of women’s athletics winning many titles (seven Catalan championships and four Spanish ones) and setting a couple of records. Here are some highlights of her career.

While Anna was a specialist in all four throwing disciplines, hammer throw proved to be one of her strongest fields. In October 1931 she went to Spain’s capital to participate in the first National Championship Athletics for Women, organized by the Athletic Society of Madrid. There she set the record for hammer throw which title she held till 1936. Thanks to this feat Catalan President Macià received her in the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya where he congratulated her on this result.

Participants of the first National Championship Athletics for Women, Madrid, 1931

Another official recognition came from the French Athletics Federation who awarded her the Medal of Joan of Arc for her outstanding performances with the Catalan team that had competed contests in Albi, southern France.

In this year Anna set a new record in hammer throw. In fact, in five years she had made a spectacular progress from 8,19 metres in 1931 to 9,77 metres in 1936, which record was only beaten in 1966. A second record was in discus throw during the Spanish championship: 22,97 metres crowning her national champion.

Anna is the one in the middle, the man at her feet is her brother Josep

The end
After the last Spanish championship in 1936 Anna had to end her career due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War that also was the cause of the cancellation of the People’s Olympiad in which she would take part. This was a planned international multi-sport event to be held in Barcelona as a protest against the 1936 Summer Olympics of Berlin, then under control of the Nazi Party.

After the Civil War and during Franco‘s regime women were not allowed to participate in the Championships of Catalonia, this situation lasted until 1947. Anna never again entered competitions; nevertheless she always continued practising her sport and till the end steadfastly followed the developments in her field.

Note: several photos are from the blog Dona havia de ser, some of them belong to the personal collection of Anna Tugas.

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