Dramatic rescue at world championships after swimmer faints and sinks to bottom of pool

Anita Alvarez was the centre of a dramatic episode at the world swimming championships in Budapest on Wednesday when the artistic swimmer had to be rescued from the bottom of the pool by her coach after losing consciousness in the water.

American Alvarez had completed her solo free final at the World Aquatics Championships when she fainted and sank to the bottom of the pool. Andrea Fuentes, her coach, quickly realised something was amiss and dived in fully clothed to pull Alvarez up to the surface.

Alvarez, competing at her third world championships, was not breathing when Fuentes dragged her with some assistance to the side of the pool. The swimmer was taken from there to the pool’s medical centre, and Team USA later issued a statement saying she was doing well.

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Fuentes said that despite the incident, Alvarez still hoped to compete in Friday’s team event.

“It was a big scare,” Fuentes was reported as saying by Spanish newspaper Marca. “I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well.”

Anita Alvarez of the US competes in the women’s solo free final on day six of the 2022 Fina world championships in Budapest.
Anita Alvarez of the US competes in the women’s solo free final on day six of the 2022 Fina world championships in Budapest. Photograph: Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images
Anita Alvarez
Alvarez was later rescued by her coach, Andrea Fuentes. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

It is not the first time Alvarez has fainted in the pool, according to reports. A similar scene played out at an Olympic qualifier in Spain last year when a fully-clothed Fuentes again jumped into the pool to make a rescue.

At the time, Alvarez’s mother, Karen, said, “Unfortunately, I’ve seen it happen to her before.”

Andrea Fuentes swims down to rescue Alvarez from the bottom of the pool.
Andrea Fuentes swims down to rescue Alvarez from the bottom of the pool. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Spaniard Fuentes, a hugely successful former synchronised swimmer with four Olympic, 16 world championship and 11 European championship medals to her name, is the US’s senior national team head coach.

Alvarez is pulled out of the pool and attended to by medical staff.
Alvarez is pulled out of the pool and attended to by medical staff. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

“She only had water in her lungs, once she started breathing again everything was OK,” said Fuentes. “It felt like a whole hour.

“She wasn’t breathing … I went as quickly as I could, as if it were an Olympic final.”

The Guardian

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