As American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez slowly sank to the bottom of the pool at the world championships in Budapest on Wednesday, her coach Andrea Fuentes quickly scanned the edge of the pool and made a split-second decision: she dived for Save her.
Alvarez, a 25-year-old from upstate New York, had passed out at the end of her solo routine at the event, creating a life-threatening situation as her motionless body drifted below the surface.
“I jumped into the water again because I saw no one, no lifeguard, was jumping in,” Fuentes, a former Spanish Olympic medalist, told Spanish newspaper Marca. “I was a little scared because she wasn’t breathing.”
Fuentes said Alvarez, who was treated by medical personnel, went about two minutes without breathing as water filled her lungs. Doctors have “checked all vital signs and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar, blood pressure, etc,” Fuentes said in an update posted to USA Artistic Swimming’s Instagram account. US sports governing body.
Fuentes was praised for her quick-wittedness, but she knew what to do because she had done it before. During an Olympic qualifying event last year in Spain, Alvarez also passed out at the end of a routine with his couples partner, Lindi Schroeder. As she did on Thursday, Fuentes dove into the pool fully clothed and, with help from Schroeder, pulled Alvarez above the water.
On Thursday, Fuentes, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, saved Alvarez again. After returning Alvarez to the pool deck, where she received medical attention 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 returning for the team event later this week.
“We sometimes forget that this happens in other high endurance sports,” Fuentes said in the USA Artistic Swimming statement. “Marathon, cycling, cross-country… we’ve all seen images where some athletes don’t make it to the finish line and others help them get there. Our sport is no different from any other, just in a pool we push the limits and sometimes we find them.
Fuentes reported that “Anita feels fine now and the doctors also say she is fine.”
“Tomorrow she will rest all day and decide with the doctor whether or not she can swim the free team finals,” Fuentes said.
Alvarez had done the same at last year’s Olympic event in Spain, returning to the pool just hours after passing out to perform her next routine.
Alvarez is a two-time Olympian. She finished ninth in the duet event at the Rio 2016 Games and 13th in the competition at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games last summer in Japan. She is participating in the world championships for the fourth time.