A frightening scene played out on Day 5 during the Artistic free solo event at the 2022 FINA World Championships.
Team USA swimmer Anita Alvarez fainted toward the end of her routine during the solo free final. As Alvarez sank to the bottom of the pool her coach Andrea Fuentes immediately sprang into action, diving into the water and dragging her back to safety.
“It was a big scare. 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 in an interview with MARCA.
Fuentes realized something was wrong when Alvarez ‘went down and didn’t react’ rather than immediately surfacing after her routine. ‘When a swimmer finishes, the first thing they want to do is breathe,’ Fuentes said.
The U.S. team poolside was visibly shaken by the scene as their teammate drifted to the bottom of the water, yet Team USA was on heightened alert as Alvarez has had a history of fainting.
During an Olympic qualifier in Barcelona, Spain last year, she fainted while performing her routine and had to be rescued in similar fashion.
Alvarez was immediately attended to by medical professionals poolside. All her vital signs were normal.
“Oxygen, glucose, heart, blood pressure, everything’s fine,” her coach noted. ”We have looked at many things and the pressure is good. We’ve done a CT scan on her brain, she’s fine.”
This is the third World Championships for the 25-year-old Alvarez. The plan is to rest her on Thursday so she may be able to to compete in the team free event on Friday.
Fuentes is sympathetic the challenge Alvarez is going through.
“She [asked] me ‘why’?
“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.”