American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez sank to the bottom of the pool at the end of her solo routine during the world championships in Budapest on Wednesday. Thankfully, her coach reacted quickly to prevent a potentially tragic situation from developing.
Coach Andrea Fuentes immediately noticed something was wrong and dove into the pool to save Alvarez from drowning.
Coach draws on previous experience to stage rescue
Fuentes swam underwater and put her arms around Alvarez, lifting her to the surface of the water. Another person worked with Fuentes to get Alvarez out of the pool.
“I jumped into the water again because I saw that no one, no lifeguard, was jumping in,” Fuentes told Spanish newspaper Marca. “I got a little scared because she wasn’t breathing.”
As Fuentes alluded to, this wasn’t her first time leaping into the pool to help Alvarez. A similar situation took place last year in Spain at an Olympic qualifying event. In that case, Alvarez lost consciousness at the end of a pairs routine with partner Lindi Schroeder. Fuentes and Schroeder pulled Alvarez above water together.
Medical staff treated Alvarez at poolside on Wednesday. Fuentes said that Alvarez went about two minutes without breathing. She added that doctors had checked her vitals and that “everything is normal.”
The 25-year-old Alvarez hails from Buffalo, New York. She has twice represented the United States at the Summer Olympics, in both 2016 and in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which took place in 2021). USA Artistic Swimming named her athlete of the year in 2021.
While Alvarez hasn’t won an Olympic medal, she won two bronze medals – one each in women’s duet and women’s team – at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.
Alvarez “okay and healthy” after medical treatment
On Thursday, USA Artistic Swimming thanked Fuentes for her efforts in a statement.
“Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored. She is feeling much better and using today to rest,” the statement read. “Watching yesterday’s medical emergency of 2x Olympian Anita Alvarez and subsequent rescue by coach Andrea Fuentes was heartbreaking for our community. She gave an exceptional solo performance and competed brilliantly in four preliminary and three final competitions across six days.”
Alvarez ultimately finished in seventh place in the individual final. She may still swim in the free team final on Friday, contingent on how she feels and whether medical staff clear her to do so.
Alvarez posted to her Instagram story on Thursday to let fans know she was doing well after the incident.
“Will give a brief update soon,” Alvarez wrote. “But in the meantime, know that I am okay and healthy!” I appreciate all of the messages of support and hope everyone can respect that my team and I still have two more days of competition to be focused on here in Budapest.”
In a clear sign that Alvarez was in good shape, Fuentes made a joke about the situation.
“It was her best performance ever,” Fuentes told reporters. “She just pushed through her limits and she found them.”