Coach Rescues Swimmer After Athlete Faints in Pool During World Championships
An American artistic swimmer was dramatically rescued by her coach after she lost consciousness and sank to the bottom of the pool during an international competition.
The incident occurred Wednesday at the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, the Olympics reported. Anita Alvarez, 25, had just completed her performance in the women's solo free routine when she started to sink. Her coach, Andrea Fuentes, immediately jumped into the water — fully clothed — to save her.
In photos of the dramatic moment, the 39-year-old retired Olympian is seen swimming to Alvarez in order to bring her to the surface of the pool. There, she was joined by another swimmer who helped complete the rescue.
"I jumped into the water again because I saw that no one, no lifeguard, was diving in. I got a little scared because she wasn't breathing, but now she's fine," Fuentes told Marca newspaper, according to the Olympics.
Fuentes also spoke to Good Morning Americaovernight and said that when swimmers finish choreography, "you really want to breathe." She added that the athletes hold their breath for "a long time" and when she saw Alvarez start sinking to the pool she knew something "was happening."
Fuentes explained that this situation isn't as uncommon as one might expect, explaining that "sometimes people pass out."
Reporter T.J. Holmes told GMA that Alvarez actually lost consciousness during competition last year as well.
In a statement shared to the USA Artistic Swimming Instagram page following the incident, Fuentes said that Alvarez was okay.
"The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc… all 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," the statement said.
She continued, "Our sport is no different than others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them. Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is okay. Tomorrow she will rest all day and will decide with the doctor if she can swim free team finals or not. Thank you for all of your well wishes for Anita."
In a statement shared with PEOPLE, a rep for USA Artistic Swimming said, "Watching yesterday's medical emergency of 2x Olympian Anita Alvarez and subsequent rescue by coach Andrea Fuentes was heartbreaking for our community."
"Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored. She is feeling much better and using today to rest," they continued. "Whether or not she will swim in the free team final on Friday, June 24 will be determined by Anita and expert medical staff."
Fuentes competed in synchronized swimming for Spain at the Olympics in 2004, 2008 and 2012, winning four medals. She retired in 2013 as the most decorated swimmer in national history, and has served as the head coach for the U.S. Senior National Synchronized Swimming Team since 2018, according to the team.