Artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez went “at least two minutes without breathing” after she passed out and fell to the bottom of the pool at the world championships, her quick-witted coach who saved her life has said. “I think she went at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water,” said coach Andrea Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medalist in artistic swimming, adding that the swimmer’s heart was beating. “She threw up water, coughed and that was it, but it was a big scare,” Fuentes said.
The 25-year-old had collapsed to the bottom of the pool after passing out at the end of her routine in Wednesday night’s solo freestyle final in Budapest.
Meanwhile, as it emerged Alvarez had passed out during a previous competition, local organizers and the sport’s governing body have come under fire after lifeguards were accused of not reacting enough quickly to the incident.
Fuentes, could see warning signs that Alvarez was in trouble.
“She was coming down”
“I saw his feet were a bit whiter than normal so I thought his blood was not going as usual,” Fuentes told the TAUT. “Normally when you’re done, what you really want to do is breathe, but instead of going up, she was going down.”
Fuentes, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, dived to the bottom of the pool and dragged Alvarez to the surface.
“It was a big scare. I had to intervene because the lifeguards weren’t doing it,” Fuentes told Spanish media.
“When I saw it sink I looked at the rescuers, but I saw they were dazed. They didn’t react.”
“I thought, ‘Do you want to jump now?’ My reflexes kicked in.”
Alvarez was taken on a stretcher to the poolside medical center, with teammates and fans appearing to be in shock poolside, some in tears consoling themselves.
The USA Artistic Team released a statement from Fuentes on Thursday morning, saying Alvarez passed out due to exertion during the routine.
“Sometimes we forget that this happens in other high endurance sports. Marathon, cycling, cross-country… our sport is no different from any other, just in a pool we push the limits and sometimes we push them. let’s find.”
“Anita feels fine now and the doctors also say she is fine.”
Alyssa Jacobs, spokeswoman for Team USA, said Wednesday’s incident was not the first time Alvarez had passed out.
“It happened to her once last year in the Olympic qualifying tournament when she was playing against her duo,” Jacobs said.
“Before that she had sporadic problems with fainting but never in competition.”
On Thursday, Bela Merkely, the head of Hungary’s medical service, told local media that staff had followed “extremely strict FINA rules” which “determine when rescuers can intervene”.
“Sensing the Danger”
“According to the rules, members of the FINA delegated judging panel may jump into the pool to signal that a competition program may be interrupted due to an incident,” Merkely said.
“No such signal was received from the judges in Wednesday’s final, and it doesn’t matter if a coach signals to them that they are not allowed to interfere.”
“After the coach jumped into the pool at his 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.”
The FINA governing body also stressed that the incident ended well.
“FINA has been in close contact with Anita Alvarez, her team and medical staff following a medical emergency during the Artistic Swimming Solo Freestyle Final,” she said in a statement.
“Ms Alvarez was immediately treated by an on-site medical team and is in good health.”
Jacobs said Alvarez could still make the team freestyle final on Friday.
“Anita is doing well and resting today. She has been fully assessed by our team doctor and event medical staff. She currently has one final event left to compete in at the 2022 World Championships and she will decide if she feels up to competing tomorrow if she is medically cleared,” Jacobs said.
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