A 25-year-old swimmer who was competing at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, had a lucky escape on Thursday after fainting in the pool before being rescued by her coach.
American synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez lost consciousness in the final of the women’s solo free event after completing her routine at the championships and could be seen sinking to the bottom of the pool.
Luckily, her quick-thinking coach Andrea Fuentes, a four-time Olympic artistic swimming medalist, jumped in and pulled Alvarez to the surface with the help of an unidentified male.
Alvarez was then taken away on a stretcher by medical professionals while both teammates and spectators looked on in shock.
Fuentes, Team USA’s head coach, took aim at the lifeguards on scene at the incident, noting that they were slow to react to Alvarez passing out under the water.
“It was a big scare. I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it,” Fuentes was reported as saying by the Spanish newspaper Marca. “I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well.”
The head coach told AS newspaper that the incident was “very intense,” adding, “I think she was at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water. But we were able to take her to a good place, she vomited the water, coughed and that was it. But it was a big scare.”
‘Pushed Through Her Limits’
“When I saw her sinking, I looked at the rescuers, but I saw that they were stunned. They didn’t react,” Fuentes was reported as saying. “I thought, ‘Will you jump in now?’ My reflexes kicked in quickly. I’m like that, I can’t just stare. I didn’t overthink it, I jumped in. I think it was the craziest and fastest free dive I’ve ever done in my career.”
Despite the dramatic incident, Alvarez scored 87.6333 points for her routine, finishing 17th in the final.
In a statement posted to social media on Wednesday, Fuentes said that Alvarez had “pushed through her limits” at the championships. But doctors now say she is doing better.
The swimming coach also noted that similar incidents can happen in other high-endurance sports such as cycling, marathons, and cross-country running.
“Some don’t make it to the final line and some even finish crawling or passing out,” Fuentes wrote. “Our sport is very hard too. Now it’s time to rest and recover. Tomorrow is highlight day and free duet finals! Ready to give our best.”
Incredibly, this is not the first time that Alvarez has passed out during a competition only to be pulled above water by Fuentes.
The young swimmer suffered a similar incident during an Olympic qualifier in Barcelona last year and was pulled to safety by her coach along with her swim partner Lindi Schroeder.