Andrea Fuentes acted fast to save the life of U.S. swimmer Anita Alvarez after she fainted in the pool at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest on Wednesday
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Alvarez, 25, is representing the United States in Budapest, Hungary, but fell unconscious straight after completing her artistic routine in the solo free final. Former synchronised competitors Andrew Fuentes leapt into action and saved her charge’s life after she had sunk to the bottom of the pool.
Medics helped resuscitate Alvarez at the side of the pool following Fuentes’ intervention. A statement from the US Artistic Swimming team said she would be assessed on Thursday before a decision is made on her involvement in Friday’s schedule, though Fuentes seemed sure she would be available.
“She [Alvarez] doesn’t want to leave here with the photo of her unconscious at the bottom of the pool,” the coach told Spanish newspaper El Mundo . “In any case in the team events Anita does a lot of pirouettes and very few apneas so she will almost certainly compete.”
Budapest will host the team free final on Friday afternoon, with the United States having placed eighth in Wednesday’s preliminaries. The artistic portion of this year’s World Aquatics Championships is then set to conclude with the mixed duet free and highlight routine finals on Saturday.
It’s the second time in roughly a year that the synchronised swimmer has fainted in the pool, having also fallen unconscious at an Olympics qualifier in Barcelona in 2021. Alvarez’s mother, Karen, commented at the time that she had “seen it happen to her before – never in competition, though.”
Fuentes—Spain’s most decorated swimmer with four Olympic medals (three silvers, one bronze)—fumed at the slow response from lifeguards not long after the incident.
Speaking to Spanish radio, she said: “It felt like a whole hour [that Alvarez was unconscious in the water]. I said things weren’t right, I was shouting at the lifeguards to get into the water, but they didn’t catch what I said or they didn’t understand.”
Fuentes, 39, serves as senior head coach for the U.S. team alongside fellow Olympian Reem Abdalazem. She represented Spain at three Summer Games and medalled in two of those (2008 and 2012) before retiring in 2013.
Despite escaping a near-tragedy, Fuentes hailed Alvarez’s seventh-place display as “her best performance ever.” Japanese swimmer Yukiko Inui took the gold medal from Wednesday’s solo free final, as well as winning the solo technical routine.
Taking to Instagram late on Wednesday, Fuentes wrote: “Anita is okay. The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal – [her] heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, et cetera… all is OK.
“We sometimes forget that this happens in other high-endurance sports [such as] 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.”