American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez recalled the last moments before she lost consciousness at the end of her free solo final during Wednesday’s World Championships, sinking to the bottom of the pool in Budapest, Hungary. Thankfully, her coach, Andrea Fuentes, jumped in fully-clothed and dragged her to safety.
“I remember feeling like it was a really great performance,” said Alvarez, who placed 7th. “Like, my best one by far and not only just how I performed but just that I was actually enjoying it and really living in the moment, too. So, because of that I feel really happy and really proud.
Olympic swimmer Anita Alvarez was rescued by her coach Andrea Fuentes after fainting during the world aquatics championships.
Anita tells @MiguelNBC about the last thing she remembers before the incident.
Watch more from our interview with the pair tonight at 6:30 ET / 5:30 CT. pic.twitter.com/EfLb0jLp4I
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“And then at the end, I do remember like the very last arm I did, I gave like, it’s such a simple small arm, but I was like, ‘Give everything until the very end.’ And I did that, and then I remember going down and just being like, kind of like, ‘Uh oh, I don’t feel too great.’ And that’s literally that last thing I remember actually.”
Fuentes said Alvarez went about two minutes without breathing before medical personnel helped her regain consciousness. The U.S. artistic team attributed the loss of consciousness to how much effort she expended during her routine.
It wasn’t the first time this situation had unfolded, either, as Fuentes had previously saved Alvarez from drowning during an Olympic qualification event last year in Spain. The 25-year-old Alvarez grew up “idolizing” Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medalist from Spain.
“I mean I say this all the time to her and to other people, just so grateful to have her as a coach,” Alvarez said of Fuentes. “When I found out she was coming to be our coach, it was like, I didn’t believe it.”
Alvarez said she made the decision to jump in once she noticed lifeguards not acting quickly. Bela Merkely, head of the Hungarian medical service, told local media that staff were abiding by “extremely strict FINA rules” that “determine when lifeguards can intervene.”
“Under the rules, members of the judges panel delegated by FINA may jump into the pool to signal that a competition program may be interrupted due to any incident,” Merkely said. “No such signal was received from the judges during Wednesday’s final, and no matter if a coach signals to them they are not allowed to intervene. After the coach jumped into the pool at her own risk, the local lifeguards, sensing the danger… decided to intervene immediately, so the American competitor finally got out of the pool with their help.”
Team officials said that Alvarez could still take part in the team free final on Friday. The last time she was rescued after fainting, Alvarez returned to competition just hours later.