The Incredible Sporting Prowess of Jose Maria Yermo Solaegui

jose-maria-yermo-solaegui-tnBorn in Las Arenas in 1903,  Jose Maria Yermo Solaegui (known simply as “Yermo”) was a Spanish footballer who played as a striker for Arenas Club de Getxo during the 1920s and 1930s.  He also captained the Spanish national team and in 1928, became the first player to score a hat-trick for Spain. However, his sporting achievements were not limited to the football pitch.

As well as being a talented footballer, Yermo was a member of the Spanish national cycling team and competed at the Olympic Games in athletics, cycling and football. He was the Spanish record holder for long jump and triple jump, and also competed in high jump, rowing, hammer-throwing, hockey and motorcycling.

His sporting exploits are a prime example of the proud Basque tradition for showcasing acts of physical strength and endurance. A practice that caused many footballers from the region to compete in other sports; such as the the four Arenas Club players, led by another club legend, Pedro Vallana, who went on to become the Spanish 4 x 250m relay champions in 1923.

Arenas de Getxo Football Club were founded in 1909 and soon became one of the biggest names in Spanish football – winning many regional tournaments and dominating the sport in the Basque Country. In 1914, they met Barcelona in a series of friendly games and won them all. In the following years, they went on to become champions of Northern Spain and the Basque Country, and they competed in three Spanish cup finals.

It was the Director of Arenas Club de Getxo, Jose Maria Acha, who first proposed the idea of a national league at a meeting in 1927 – an idea that became reality in 1929 when La Liga was formed. Arenas Club competed at the top level for the first 7 seasons of La Liga and many of their players went on to represent Spain at national level. They were eventually relegated in 1935 and have never returned to the top flight.

The first time Yermo competed in the colours of Arenas Club was as a teenage athlete. He was known for his jumping abilty and in 1923, became the Spanish long jump record holder with a jump of 6.23m. A year later, he became the first Spaniard to break the 13m barrier in the triple jump, recording a  distance of 13.48m. As a result, he was selected to represent Spain at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris but he was unable to compete due to injury.

Between 1923 and 1925, Yermo won multiple medals at the Spanish national athletic championships, including three silver and two bronze medals in his favoured long and triple jump events. In 1926, he became a cycling champion, winning the Basque speed championship and was also a runner-up in the Spanish championship. This earned him a place in the Spanish team for the World Championships but they were unable to secure a medal.

By 1928, Yermo was an established striker for Arenas Football Club and was chosen to captain Spain at the summer Olympic Games in Amseterdam. It was there that he became the first Spanish player to score a hat-trick in a 7-1 demolition of Mexico. Unfortunately, they were then beaten by the same score-line in the Quarter-final match against Italy, with Yermo scoring the only goal for Spain. Incredibly, at the same tournament, he also became the first Spaniard to represent his nation at Olympic cycling, finishing a commendable 12th in the 1km time trials.

Yermo began his football career in the youth ranks at Arenas Club and spent his entire career playing for the Basque Country side before finally retiring in 1935. As well as many appearances at regional level, he also made 51 appearances in La Liga, scoring a total of 30 goals – a contribution that secured his place in the club’s book of legends.

In the summer of 1932, Yermo made the news again after becoming the first person to row the course of the river Ebro from Aragon to the Mediterranean. He completed the course despite being capsized and battered against rocks in Sastago.

After leaving football, he retained a strong interest in rowing and cycling and, inspired by the Tour de France, became a key player in the inauguration of the now famous Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) cycling race. He lived to see the race grow into a prestigious global event before passing away in 1960 aged just 57.