USA swimmer Anita Alvarez had to be rescued from the bottom of the pool by her coach Andrea Fuentes on Wednesday after she fainted during the solo free final at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest.
After completing her routine, artistic swimmer Alvarez sunk to the bottom of the pool in an unconscious state. The 25-year-old's coach Fuentes, without skipping a beat, jumped into the pool and managed to pull her to the top before bringing her to the edge of the pool to get immediate medical attention.
Rapid rescue.@AFP photographers Oli Scarff and Peter Kohalmi capture the dramatic rescue of USA's Anita Alvarez from the bottom of the pool when she fainted during the women's solo free artistic swimming finals at the Budapest 2022 World Aquatics Championships pic.twitter.com/8Y0wo6lSUn— AFP News Agency (@AFP) June 23, 2022
Alvarez, still looking visibly unconscious, was put on a stretcher and taken to the medical center at the swimming arena amid stunned spectators.
"It was a big scare. I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren't doing it," Fuentes was reported as saying by Spanish newspaper Marca, as quoted by AFP.
"I was scared because I saw she wasn't breathing, but now she is doing very well," Fuentes added.
Four-time Olympic medalist Fuentes told Spanish radio that the reason why Alvarez fainted was because of the effort exerted during her routine.
"She only had water in her lungs, once she started breathing again everything was OK," said Fuentes.
"It felt like a whole hour. I said things weren't right, I was shouting at the lifeguards to get into the water, but they didn't catch what I said or they didn't understand.
"She wasn't breathing ... I went as quickly as I could, as if it were an Olympic final," Fuentes added.
"It was very intense," Fuentes told AS newspaper, as quoted by AFP. "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," she said.
Fuentes also came down hard on the lifeguards at the Aquatic World Championships who according to her, were slow to react to the situation.
"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 by the newspaper.
"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. I think it was the craziest and fastest free dive I've ever done in my career. I picked her up and lifted her, obviously she was heavy, it wasn't easy."
Following the scary incident, the USA artistic team issued a statement on social media sharing more details on Anita's condition.
"Anita is okay -- the doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure," Fuentes said in the statement.
"We sometimes forget that this happens in other high-endurance sports. Marathon, cycling, cross country ... we all have seen images where some athletes don't make it to the finish line and others help them to get there," she added.
"Our sport is no different than others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them. Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is OK.
"Tomorrow she will rest all day and will decide with the doctor if she can swim free team finals or not. Thank you for all of your well wishes for Anita."
The 2021 USA Artistic Swimming Athlete of the Year Alvarez was in the hunt for a medal in her third world championships. However, she failed to reach the podium after finishing seventh. The gold medal went to Japan's Yukiko Inui while Ukraine's Marta Fiedina and Greece's Evangelia Platanioti earned silver and bronze respectively.