This is the second time Coach Andrea Fuentes has rescued Anita Alvarez, after rescuing her during an Olympic qualification event.
American swimmer Anita Alvarez was saved by her team coach after she lost consciousness and failed to resurface during the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Coach Andrea Fuentes jumped in after the 25-year-old as she sank to the bottom of the pool. The dramatic pictures of Fuentes reaching out and rescuing the artistic swimmer from underwater have gone viral on the internet. Anita Alvarez was at the end of her routine in the women's solo free event on Wednesday when she suddenly lost consciousness. She was rescued and given treatment at the side of the pool before being carried off in a stretcher for further medical attention. Coach Andrea Fuentes later confirmed that the situation was under control and that Alvarez was doing "really good," reported CNN. "I don't think I've swum as fast ever before, even when I got Olympic medals, and well, in the end, I was able to get her up and she wasn't breathing ... In the end, everything came out OK," said Fuentes.
American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez said she was "shocked" when she saw the "beautiful" @AFP photographs showing her sinking unconscious to the bottom of the pool and being rescued by her coach at the World Swimming Championshipshttps://t.co/jmFKVpr0AB pic.twitter.com/Y8hMJUk5Dy— AFP News Agency (@AFP) June 24, 2022
This is the second time Fuentes has had to rescue Alvarez after jumping in to lift her to the surface during an Olympic qualification event last year. "I was not going to wait," said Fuentes, who's a four-time Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming. Alvarez has competed at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics as well. Fuentes said such events were more common than it seemed to those who don't follow the sport, as swimmers often hold their breath for long periods underwater to improve lung capacity. She clarified that swimmers never go against medical advice given to them in such cases.
Fuentes said she always keeps an eye out for telltale signs as was with the case of Alvarez. Toward the end of Alvarez's routine, Fuentes noticed that the swimmer's feet seemed to be more pale than normal. When Alvarez went down instead of coming up for air, Fuentes knew she had to dive in. "When a swimmer finishes their routine, the first thing they want to do is breathe and so I saw that instead of going up, she was going down and I told myself, 'Something is going on' ... So after a couple of seconds, I went in as fast as I could," she told COPE. Along with the help of a lifeguard, Fuentes brought Alvarez to the surface.
"I was already paying attention, and then I saw her going down," said Fuentes. "I didn't even ask myself if I should go or not, I just thought that I was not going to wait." She was asked if lifeguards were too late to react but Fuentes clarified that it wasn't something they could have spotted. "I know Anita very well and I know the sport very well. They did their job, I did mine," said Fuentes. "Anita is okay," said Fuentes in a statement on the USA Artistic Swimming Instagram page. "The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc ... All is okay ... Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is okay. 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," said Fuentes. FINA described the incident as a "medical emergency" but said she was doing well. "Ms. Alvarez was immediately treated by a medical team in the venue and is in good health," read the statement by FINA.
The photographs that went viral were taken by Oli Scarff, who captured them with the help of a remote robotic camera underwater. "It was kind of a shocking thing to see because as soon as I looked back down at the robotic camera I had this kind of clear view of the scene while everyone in the arena was watching it through the surface of the water," the photographer told CNN. "It went immediately from photographing these beautiful pictures of this amazing athlete performing ... to then just in a heartbeat, now we're photographing a near-death situation," recalled Scarff. "I was quite shaken, actually."