United States swim coach, Andrea Fuentes, prevented a devastating catastrophe at the 2022 swimming world championships, In Budapest, Hungary. On Wednesday, June 24, 2022, Fuentes knew something was not right when she watched her artistic swimmer, Anita Alvarez, a two-time Olympian, slowly fade motionlessly toward the pool ground during her solo routine.
Upon instinct, Fuentes dived in with no hesitation. She was fully clothed and lost no time between diving in and retrieving her sunken athlete. Once she managed to get both arms fastened around Alvarez, she lifted her to the surface, where another civilian helped carry her out of the pool.
Alvarez was given immediate medical attention, and by the same time on Thursday, she was feeling much better.
"Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored," announced USA Artistic swimming in a statement to The Associated Press. "She is feeling much better and using today to rest."
Alvarez finished seventh overall in Wednesday's final, and her medical staff determined her participation in the free team final on Friday. Her doctors have cleared her to compete.
On an Instagram post, Fuentes reiterated her condition and assured the public of her wellbeing.
"The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc… all is okay," Fuentes wrote. "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. Our sport is no different than others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them."
This is not the first time Fuentes has had to leap to Alvarez's rescue. During an Olympic qualification event in 2021, a situation revolving around the same circumstances occurred, and Fuentes, along with swim partner Lindi Schroeder came to her rescue.
Fuentes also assured the public that this is not uncommon in this specific sport, although it may shock the public. Swimmers regularly hold their breath for long periods to improve their lung capacity, but never against medical advice they receive.
A photographer from the event, Oil Scarff, explained his part in the circumstances, specifically when he noticed this detrimental situation.
"It went immediately from photographing these beautiful pictures of this amazing athlete performing ... to then, in a heartbeat, we're photographing a near-death situation," Scarff said to CNN. "I was quite shaken, actually."
Following the events, Alvarez described her experience after the situation deescalated.
"I honestly thought I was asleep," Alvarez stated. "I started hearing people saying, 'It's going to be okay.' I thought, 'Stop telling me that! I'm trying to sleep.' Then I realized that no, I was still in the pool."
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