American swimmer Anita Alvarez is breathing a sigh of relief on Thursday after her coach dramatically rescued her when the athlete fainted and sank to the bottom of the swimming pool in the middle of her routine on Wednesday night.
The dramatic scenes unfolded at the World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, while Alvarez, 25, was competing in the final of the women’s solo free event and suddenly lost consciousness, causing her to sink to the bottom of the competition pool.
Andrea Fuentes, Alvarez’s coach, immediately dove into the water and was able to pull Alvarez to the surface before the swimmer was taken off for medical treatment on a stretcher as the rest of Team USA, who were watching the competition inside the arena, looked on clearly shaken by the event.
Fuentes, speaking exclusively to "Good Morning America" on Thursday, explained what was going through her mind during the ordeal.
"When you finish, you really want to breathe because you hold your breath for a long time and the first thing you want to do is breathe," Fuentes said. "And I thought she was going down, so I was like, immediately, [I] knew that something was happening so I went as fast as I could. And I reach her and grab her to the surface and tried to calm her down and make her breathe."
Fuentes began administering CPR until medics and the team doctor were able to take over.
“Anita is okay,” Fuentes said in a statement after the terrifying incident. “The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc… all is okay.”
Fuentes continued: “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.”
Even after having to be rescued, Alvarez still managed to finish the competition in seventh place with a final score of 87.6333.
Alvarez suffered through a similar event at the FINA Olympic Games Artistic Swimming Qualification Tournament in Barcelona in June 2021 when she fainted while competing and Fuentes came to her immediate aid in the pool again on that occasion.
For now, however, a decision on whether or not Alvarez will continue on in this year’s competition has yet to be made.
“Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is okay,” concluded Fuentes. “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.”