Let's dive into the world of Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste, one of Estonia's top FPO players. Anneli's past season was impressive, participating in 16 PDGA tournaments, finishing on the podium in 10 of them. She also secured the overall victory at the 2023 European Pro Tour! Notably, Anneli achieved 6th place at the 2023 European Open and European Championships.


Anneli, you are undoubtedly one of the most interesting female players in the Estonian FPO ranks, not only in terms of your gameplay but also as a health guru. How did you find your way to such a lifestyle?

I don't know if "health guru" is the right term for me, as I still have a long way to go to reach where I want to be. However, maybe compared to an average Estonian, I am indeed relatively health-conscious. I have several autoimmune diseases and other chronic issues that I had to deal with constantly when I was younger. Eventually, my body couldn't handle the sea of medications anymore, and I decided to change my lifestyle and nutrition. I was already somewhat athletic before, and it has never been a big challenge for me, but I was incredibly stressed all the time and ate poorly. I am motivated by the idea that I might live a full life even in old age, hoping that what I'm doing now will bear fruit, and I can provide more support to my body with the current lifestyle.

What does your typical off-season day look like, and how much does it change when the season is starting or ongoing?

At the beginning of the off-season, I focus more on aerobic training and enjoy outdoor activities like running and skiing. Usually, I also undergo a strength test and a general health assessment. This year has been a bit different because the preparation period was shorter due to an arm injury, but there has been a lot more gym work. I hired a physical preparation coach this year, Mati Arend, with whom the collaboration has been excellent, and all the workouts are very interesting. It's a joy to see how the body develops quickly and becomes stronger every week.

I recommend this to everyone because I only now realize that I could have done this in previous years. Injuries are still necessary, and it turns out that it was my lesson and finding at once.

What is your profession, and how does it impact your disc golf journey, both positively and negatively?

I am a massage therapist, which is not the easiest job physically. There is a lot of strain on the hands, and many muscle groups are used, similar to disc golf. This sets a very favorable ground for overloads, which happened to me. Last year, I had to work terribly hard during the off-season to be able to tour in the summer, and it was exhausting in every way. Since I also worked between competitions, I eventually developed muscle overload in my neck, which manifested as a wrist problem. Certainly, another job would be more friendly to the body, but I love my job too much to give it up. Currently, changing sponsors allows me to take it a bit easier, and I can do the minimum workload to let my body rest more.

You are known as a player with a very strong mental game. How do you develop your mental game, or what is that something that makes you believe in your skills? Share a tip with the readers.

I know very few mentally strong players who have never burned out in life. If you have gone through this process and can learn from it, it opens your eyes and makes you a much stronger person. The support structure around you is also crucial because you are only as strong as the weakest link in your support system. Choose a suitable and supportive companion, friends, and the community you are part of. Ultimately, the most important thing is to believe in yourself the most that you can do it.

The biggest opponent on the course is yourself. You have other players, but often we ruin our game ourselves. We start speaking badly to ourselves, and then everything goes downhill. Think about whether you would say such things to your partner or best friend? Rather step out of that box and think about what you would say to your most important person if things weren't going well, and they were losing hope. When we speak well of ourselves, confidence grows.

For me, this was a complete turning point because I realized that I treat myself so poorly on the course, and then nothing good can come out of it. And even if something goes wrong, it's just one throw; it doesn't determine anything. The most important throw is the next one.

You're one of those players who dare to express their opinions and thoughts loudly. How much do you think this has helped you as a player?

I've clarified a lot of things for myself, especially in the sense that nothing will change if we just nod along. Opinions are important, and thanks to them, we can improve things. Sponsors have always been open to opinions, which is crucial in disc golf disc production and beneficial for the brand itself. There are certain places where it's better not to speak up and choose the right place to do so. It's not sensible or allowed to express opinions about everything.

Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste european disc golf festival tallinn song festival grounds disc golf europe

Anneli at the European Disc Golf Championships at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. Picture: Celin Lannusalu

For the 2024 season, you are joining Team Innova. How did you find your way to the Innova brand?

Since the contract with Discmania ended, and I didn't want to extend it under the given conditions, I contacted a couple of different manufacturers. Actually, it happened at a very bad time, just before Christmas, when everyone was on vacation. It was a bit more complicated with other factories because they were starting to put together teams or make offers only in January. Innova was immediately willing to collaborate, so that's how the decision was made. Thanks to Discsport and Rene Mengel in Estonia, we have good contacts with Innova, and things were set in motion more quickly.

The new annual contract has taken a lot of pressure off because I can cover my expenses related to European competitions nicely. With the proceeds from the fundraiser disc sales, I hope to go to the USA as well.

You have been active in Estonian disc golf for quite some time. How many years have you been playing, and when did you feel that a turning point had come in your game and results?

I got into disc golf in 2015. I started training more seriously in 2017, but I really think the true turning point happened only in 2023 because the skills were always there, but mentally, I found it incredibly tough on the course. When that part got sorted, the game improved immediately.

We don't always have to cope with difficulties on our own. There are plenty of people out there who can help with such problems, and it's sometimes life-changing because life also changes outside of disc golf when things are in order in your head.

Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste hole in one disc golf europe

Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste at the EPT Turku Open 2023 after the legendary hole-in-one. Picture: Marika Salmi

In Europe, you have made quite a name for yourself. What's next? What are your future goals, plans, and dreams in disc golf?

Last year, the opportunity to go to the USA opened up in the fall, and I was looking forward to it immensely, but then the season ended with the arm injury. Certainly, I have not abandoned this dream. This year, I will participate in DGPT events, and hopefully, I will also get to play a tournament across the ocean. First and foremost, I need to consider the financial aspect. I am glad that we have the opportunity to compete at a higher level in Europe because it allows us to come home in between, which is also important.

Can you see yourself as a professional player touring not only in Europe but also in the USA?

I've thought about this a lot. If there were such financial opportunities, then yes. I've also made it clear to myself that I'm not the type of player who wants to sleep in a car and somehow get by. Currently, it is much cheaper in Europe, so you can still sleep in a bed and travel comfortably for a significantly smaller amount of money. I hope that I can achieve good results this season so that I can look more calmly across the ocean in 2025. You just have to work hard yourself.

What do you consider your strength on the course?

Mental strength and various throwing skills, definitely.

Have you already put together a new bag for the upcoming season?

Since I can use old Discmania discs that came from the Innova factory, this part is somewhat worry-free for me. I haven't received new discs yet because sending and assembling them from the USA is a bit complicated. Before joining Discmania, I also threw Innova, so I still have some old good discs that I can use. The "In the bag" should be revealed probably in March when I've had the chance to throw the new discs.

You just released a Fundraiser disc. Is this your first one? How did the idea for the stamp come about?

This is indeed my first Fundraiser disc. I wanted a stamp that would suit both men and women. Since I have always been fascinated by Chinese culture, and conveniently it was the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, that's how the dragon found its way there.

What competitions are planned for the 2024 season, and which ones are the most important for you?

The most important ones are definitely the DGPT events. Ale Open is left out of the schedule because it is an ideal week to let the body recover before the next DGPT event and the Estonian Championships. Ideally, I would also like to make it to the World Championships in the USA this year.

Anneli Tõugjas-Männiste european disc golf festival tallinn song festival grounds disc golf europe

Anneli at the European Disc Golf Championships at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds. Picture: Celin Lannusalu