Quick-thinking coach dives to rescue of unconscious swimmer

Astonishing pictures have emerged of an American swimmer being rescued by her coach after fainting and sinking to the bottom of the pool.

Coach Andrea Fuentes wasted no time jumping into the water after she saw 25-year-old artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez begin to sink at the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest on Wednesday.

“I saw her going down,” Fuentes said.

“I didn’t even ask myself if I should go or not, I just thought that I was not going to wait.”

Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medallist in synchronised swimming for Spain, dived in fully clothed. She lifted Alvarez to the surface and then helped bring her to the edge of the pool.

“I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it. I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well,” Fuentes said.

She was quick to add that the lifeguards had done nothing wrong.

“They did their job, I did mine,” she said.

Alvarez, who competed at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, was given medical attention before being taken away on a stretcher.

A day later, Fuentes told CNN the swimmer was “really good” and medical tests showed everything was “under control”. What’s more, Alvarez was keen to compete in Friday’s free team finals.

“Anita is OK – the doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc … all is OK,” Fuentes said in a statement on the USA Artistic Swimming Instagram page.

She said Alvarez would consult her doctor to get clearance.

“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,” Fuentes said.

“Our sport is no different than others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them. Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is OK.”

Fuentes said swimmers in synchronised swimming regularly hold their breath for long periods, aiming to improve their lung capacity.

It’s not the first time Fuentes has had to rescue Alvarez. She jumped into another pool during an Olympic qualification event last year and pulled her to safety, along with swim partner, Lindi Schroeder.

Elsewhere, photographer Oli Scarff, who captured pictures of the rescue with a remote robotic camera underwater, told CNN he was shocked when he saw Alvarez sinking.

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

“It went immediately from photographing these beautiful pictures of this amazing athlete performing … to then just in a heartbeat, now we’re photographing a near-death situation,” Scarff said.

“I was quite shaken, actually.”

-with agencies

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