USA Swimmer Faints Underwater At World Championships. Her Coach Dives In To Rescue Her.
Andrea Fuentes
David Ramos/Getty Images

The head coach for the USA Artistic Swimming National Team saved the life of a American swimmer by diving in the pool at the World Championships in Budapest.

Andrea Fuentes, 39, a former four-time Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming for Spain, dove in the pool after realizing artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez, 25, had fainted underwater and was  sinking to the bottom of the pool.

“It was a big scare. I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it,” Fuentes said later.

Alvarez was competing in the final of the women’s solo free event; Fuentes and a male lifeguard dragged her out of the pool after she had fallen unconscious.

Fuentes stated that she realized things had gone awry when Alvarez “went down and didn’t react,” adding, “When a swimmer finishes, the first thing they want to do is breathe.”

Fuentes said he gestured to the lifeguards but they didn’t see it, “so I jumped in myself. I went there as fast as I could. I went in even faster than when I was going for Olympic medals,” as The Daily Mail reported.

Fuentes said Alvarez fully recovered, stating, “We have looked at many things and the pressure is good. We’ve done a CT scan on his brain, she’s fine. … It has been, as you know, sometimes we see it happening in sport, cyclists, marathons in athletics vomit many times.”

Fuentes said Alvarez asked her why she had fainted. “I said, as athletes, we dedicate ourselves to discovering where the limit is and sometimes we find it, and today you have found it, you have gone so far that your body said, girl, don’t ask me anything else,” Fuentes said.

“In our sport it happens sometimes, when we go without breathing for a long time, with very high pulses and sometimes the oxygen not getting where it has to get, we faint,” she continued.

Alvarez spoke of how difficult synchronized swimming was in 2016, telling the Press-Enterprise, “We even have to smile and lift our brows at the same time in the same way. We’re under water half the time with no oxygen, but we have to make it look easy.”

“While keeping time, pairs must keep tabs on each other above and below the water – a most difficult feat without goggles when everything appears blurred,” The Press Enterprise added.

USA Artistic Swimming issued a statement:

Watching yesterday’s medical emergency of 2x Olympian Anita Alvarez and subsequent rescue by coach Andrea Fuentes was heartbreaking for our community. She gave an exceptional solo performance and competed brilliantly in four preliminary and three final competitions across six days. Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored. She is feeling much better and using today to rest.  Whether or not she will swim in the free team final on Friday, June 24th will be determined by Anita and expert medical staff.

This is not the first time Fuentes has rescued Alvarez. Previously, during an Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona, the same thing happened.

In 2010, Olympic medal winner Fran Crippen, 26, died in the 10-kilometer open-water event in the United Arab Emirates. Swimming World reported the water temperature was in the mid- to high-80s.  Crippen failed to arrive at the finish, prompting a search for his body, which was discovered before the last buoy on the course.

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