OLYMPIC synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez came within seconds of death when she fainted in the pool during the 2022 World Championships.
It was not the first time the 25-year-old has experienced a health scare in the pool as she lost consciousness during an Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona in 2021.
Alvarez competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and earned a bronze medal in the 2019 Lima World Championships for the Women’s Duet and Women’s Team.
She was training for eight hours a day, six days a week as she prepared for the Tokyo Olympics before her plans were dramatically upended due to Covid-19.
She told WIVB-TV that her demanding schedule had caused her to faint previously during training sessions.
Alvarez was performing in the delayed Olympic qualifiers when the dramatic moment happened.
She told Spectrum News the day before the qualifying event she had been at the pool for around 14 hours.
She said: “I didn’t get enough sleep, honestly. By the time we got back, I had to be up at like 5:30 again the next morning to go back.”
Alvarez said her performance went well but recalled that she started to feel tired as she approached the end of her routine.
She said she could remember rotating as if she was in a “hamster wheel” before losing consciousness.
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Alvarez recalled: “I could see the ceiling spinning, and that’s the last thing I remember until I got to the wall.”
Her mom Karen knew something was wrong when her daughter passed out.
She said: “On their last element, I could tell something was up. It was hard to watch, definitely.”
Alvarez losing consciousness sparked concern and she was rescued by her coach Andrea Fuentes.
It was the first time that she had fainted during a competition.
The athlete was checked over and she was back in the pool hours later for the technical routine.
But, the synchronized swimmer looked “visibly shaken” as she left the pool deck, USA Artistic Swimming revealed.
Artistic Swimming said at the time: “Anita is doing fine and recovering from an extremely taxing week. We could not be more proud of her contributions.”
A year later, Alvarez fainted while competing in the final of the women’s solo free event in Budapest, Hungary.
Dramatic footage showed her sinking to the bottom of the pool before Fuentes, once again, came to the rescue.
Fuentes threw herself into the pool, swam to the floor, grabbed Alvarez, and dragged her to safety with the help of another shocked onlooker.
The swimmer quickly regained consciousness and received immediate medical attention and is now on the mend.
The US team looked visibly petrified as they watched the terrifying sequence unfold and were seen consoling each other as medics raced to save Alvarez’s life.
After the shocking scenes in Budapest, Fuentes slammed lifeguards, accusing them of “not doing anything”.
Fuentes said: “It was a big scare. I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it.
“I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well.”
Fuentes said Alvarez had gone around two minutes without breathing.
Fuentes later provided a further update on Instagram, writing: “What a day. I think I had all kind of possible emotions.
“Anita is OK. The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc… all is OK.”
The heroic coach added: “We sometimes forget that this happens in other high-endurance sports.
“Marathon, cycling, cross country… we have all seen images where some athletes don’t make it to the finish line and others help them to get there.”
“Our sport is no different to others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them.”
Fuentes said she’s sure that Alvarez will continue to compete at the World Championships.