Anita Alvarez: Coach Andrea Fuentes dives into pool to save US swimmer at World Championships



Coach Andrea Fuentes jumped into the pool after watching the 25-year-old artistic swimmer sink to the bottom at the end of her routine in the women’s solo freestyle event on Wednesday.

Alvarez was doing “very well” on Thursday and medical tests showed everything was “under control,” Fuentes told CNN.

Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming, lifted Alvarez to the surface before helping her back to the edge of the pool.

Alvarez, who competed in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, received medical treatment poolside and was later transported on a stretcher.

It was the second time Fuentes had to save Alvarez. She jumped into the pool during an Olympic qualifying event last year and pulled it to safety, along with the American’s swim partner Lindi Schroeder.

“I wasn’t going to wait”

The coach told CNN that while the event might seem strange to the world, it’s not all that uncommon in the sport, where swimmers routinely hold their breath for long periods of time in an effort to improve their lung capacity. , but stressed that these practices never go against medical advice given to them.

Towards the end of Alvarez’s routine on Wednesday, Fuentes noticed that the swimmer’s feet looked paler than normal, which caught his attention. And when she saw Alvarez going down instead of coming up to breathe, she dove.

“I was already paying attention, then I saw her fall,” Fuentes said. “I didn’t even think about whether I should go or not, I just thought I wasn’t going to wait.”

Asked if she thought rescuers hadn’t reacted to the situation quickly enough, Fuentes said the problem was easier for her to spot quickly because “I know Anita very well and I know the sport”.

“They did their job, I did mine,” Fuentes added.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA), the sport’s governing body, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the speed of the rescue.

But in a statement to CNN on Thursday, FINA said it had been in contact with Alvarez, his team and medical personnel following what it described as a “medical emergency.”

“Ms. Alvarez was immediately treated by an on-site medical team and is in good health,” the statement said.

Oli Scarff, who captured the stunning footage of the rescue using a remote underwater robotic camera, told CNN he was looking at his computer near the end of Alvarez’s routine when he heard a commotion. He looked at the screen of what the robotic camera was capturing and saw the swimmer at the bottom of the pool.

“It was kind of a shocking thing to see because as soon as I looked at the robotic camera, I had this kind of clear view of the scene as everyone in the arena was looking at it through the surface of water,” the photographer said. told CNN.

“It went immediately from shooting these beautiful images of this amazing athlete performing…to just in the blink of an eye, now we’re shooting a near-death situation,” Scarff said. “I was pretty shaken up, actually.”

The swimmer wants to compete on Friday

In a statement on the US Artistic Swimming Instagram page, Fuentes said Alvarez would rest Thursday and see her doctor to see if she would be fit to compete in the non-swimming team finals, which are set to take place on Friday, according to FINA. .

Alvarez is pictured competing in the free solo final.
“Anita is fine – doctors have checked all vital signs and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc… all is well,” Fuentes said in the statement.

“Sometimes we forget that this happens in other high endurance sports. Marathon, cycling, cross-country… we’ve all seen images where some athletes don’t reach the finish line and others don’t reach the finish line. help make it happen,” Fuentes added.

“Our sport is no different to any other, just in a pool we push the limits and sometimes we find them. Anita feels good now and the doctors say she is fine too.”

Fuentes told CNN the swimmer “really wants” to compete on Friday and doctors cleared her to do so.

Alvarez, who was the 2021 USA Artistic Swimming Athlete of the Year, finished seventh. Japan’s Yukiko Inui took gold, while Ukraine’s Marta Fiedina and Greece’s Evangelia Platanioti finished second and third respectively.

Born in Kenmore, New York, Alvarez competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at the age of 14. Four years later, she made the team, finishing ninth in the duo at Rio 2016. She finished 13th in the same event at Tokyo 2020.

CNN’s Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.


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