When American technical swimmer Anita Alvarez slowly sank to the bottom of the pool at the world championships in Budapest on Wednesday, coach Andrea Fuentes quickly checked the pool deck and made a decision in milliseconds: She dived to save.
Alvarez, 25, from upstate New York, lost consciousness at the end of her solo routine at the event, causing a life-threatening situation as her stationary body drifted beneath the surface.
“I jumped into the water again because I saw that nobody, not a lifeguard, was jumping in there,” Fuentes, a former Olympic medalist from Spain, Spanish newspaper Marca. “I got a little scared because she wasn’t breathing.”
Fuentes said Alvarez, who was treated by medical staff, spent two minutes without breathing as water filled her lungs. Fuentes said in a message Update posted On the Instagram account of USA Artistic Swimming, the sport’s US governing body.
Fuentes was hailed for her quick thinking, but she knew what she had to do because she had done it before. At last year’s Olympic qualifying event in Spain, Alvarez similarly passed out at the end of a routine with her husband and wife partner, Lindy Schroeder. As I did on Thursday, Fuentes dived into the pool fully clothed and with Schroeder’s help, Pull Alvarez back over the water.
On Thursday, Fuentes, in shorts and a T-shirt, saved Alvarez again. After Alvarez returned to the pool, where she received medical treatment and was placed on a stretcher, Fuentes told reporters that Alvarez was “fine” and would be reassessed after some rest. She has not ruled out her return to the team event later this week.
“We sometimes forget that this happens in other endurance sports,” Fuentes said in the USA Technical Swimming statement. “Marathon, cycling, cross-country… We have all seen pictures where some athletes don’t reach the finish line and others help them get there. Our sport is no different, only in pool, we cross the line and sometimes we find it.”
“Anita is feeling fine now and the doctors also say she is fine,” Fuentes reported.
“Tomorrow she will rest all day and she will decide with the doctor whether she can swim in the team finals for free or not,” Fuentes said.
Alvarez did the same at last year’s Olympic event in Spain, returning to the pool just hours after she passed out to perform her next routine.
Alvarez Twice Olympic. She placed ninth in the duo event at the 2016 Rio Games and finished 13th in the competition at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games last summer in Japan. She is competing in the world championships for the fourth time.