US artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez has been banned from competing in the team final at the World Championships today, after she was dragged unconscious from the pool less than 48 hours ago.
Alvarez fainted during her individual routine in Budapest on Wednesday afternoon and she was dramatically rescued by her coach, Andrea Fuentes.
The swimmer had hoped to take part in the final today, but she has been excluded by the International Swimming Federation, just hours before the event was due to begin.
There has not yet been any official reaction from the swimmer or her coach, who won four Olympic and 16 World Championship medals.
Fuentes said yesterday she was confident the swimmer would continue to represent her country after test, but the final has come too soon.
On Wednesday, Fuentes reacted first and plunged into the water to bring out the 25-year-old as she sank to the bottom. A lifeguard dived in to assist, but Fuentes has since criticised the response of staff at the venue the sport’s governing body, FINA, has reportedly launched an investigation.
The coach later revealed Alvarez stopped breathing for ‘at least two minutes’ during the ordeal following her performance in the women’s solo free event.
Members of the USA swimming team as well as fans looked on in horror as the horrifying scene unfolded and the pictures of the rescue have gone around the world.
Amazingly, it was the second time Fuentes saved the swimmer after she was filmed diving in and pulling her to safety when she fainted in the pool during an Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona last year.
Alvarez regained consciousness after being recovered from the water, received immediate first aid and was reportedly recovering well. On Friday, she posted a video of herself smiling and eating with her team as she told fans she is ‘ok and healthy’.
Anita Alvarez’s coach Andrea Fuentes said she had to leap in because ‘the lifeguards weren’t doing it’ when her athlete fainted
Anita Alvarez lies at the bottom of the pool in the Budapest World Championships after fainting mid competition yesterday
Anita Alvarez is rescued by her heroic coach Andrea Fuentes after losing consciousness and sinking to the bottom of the pool at the World Championships in Budapest on Thursday
Another swimmer, believed to be a lifeguard, jumped in to help Fuentes after she got Alvarez’s head above the water
At no point did the American team rule out Alvarez from participating in the team free final, for which she qualified on Wednesday morning, despite it being scheduled for exactly 48 hours after the shocking incident in the same pool.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident Fuentes explained: ‘She only had water in her lungs, once she started breathing again everything was ok. She’s said she wants to swim in the final.’
And today Alvarez, a two-time Olympian, shared a video, originally posted by Fuentes on Instagram, of her smiling as she sat at a table with her team. ‘Nice to see Alvarez smiling with her team around,’ the coach wrote.
Alvarez said in an Instagram story that she was ‘ok and healthy’ as she thanked fans for their messages of support.
She said: ‘Thank you everyone. Will give a brief update soon. But in the meantime know that I am okay and healthy!’
Alvarez said the decision on whether she will swim today will be down to her and her expert medical staff.
She said: ‘I appreciate all of the messages of support and hope everyone can respect that my team and I still have two more days of competition to be focused on here in Budapest.
US synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez, who was dragged out of a pool in Budapest after fainting in the water, has posted a video of her smiling and eating with her team as she told fans she is ‘ok and healthy’
US synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez, who was dragged out of a pool in Budapest after fainting in the water, has thanked fans for their support and did not rule out competing in the World Championship today
‘Whether that’s in the water for me or on the sidelines will be determined by myself and expert medical staff, but either way my team and I have a job to finish and I hope everyone can understand that.’
Alvarez’s name was down on the team sheet on Friday to compete in the team free final alongside seven US swimmers – but that did not necessarily mean she would take part, since it wasgenerated following the heats on Wednesday morning.
Fuentes had indicated on Thursday evening that she expected her athlete to take part and she gave more details of how she revived Alvarez.
‘I tried to wake her up. Well, I slapped her and opened her jaw. But the truth is that until after we got to the emergency room, she did not breathe for at least two minutes,’ Fuentes said during a Spanish-language interview.
Fuentes and another rescuer dragged Alvarez to the surface with the lifeguards accused of not doing enough to help
It’s not the first time the swimmer has fainted in the pool – she did so in Barcelona last year, and Fuentes also saved her on that occasion
Alvarez (centre) regained consciousness soon after being rescued and is recovering well
The US coach also said a decision on whether Alvarez would swim in the free team finals would be taken on medical advice. But the 39-year-old mum-of-one said Alvarez was determined not to abandon the World Championships.
She told Spanish daily El Mundo: ‘She doesn’t want to leave here with the photo of her unconscious at the bottom of the pool. In any case in the team events Anita does a lot of pirouettes and very few apneas so she will almost certainly compete.’
Footage of yesterday’s event shows the US swim team celebrating as Alvarez finishes her solo routine before realising something is wrong and moments later, Alvarez is seen being dragged from the pool by Fuentes and a male lifeguard.
Last night, British artistic swimming team leader Karen Thorpe sent her best wishes to the US competitor ahead of the final.
‘On behalf of the British artistic swimming team here in Budapest and the whole of British Swimming, we would just want to send our best wishes to Anita after what happened.
‘The artistic swimming family is such a tight-knit community across the world, and it was upsetting to see an athlete in that situation. But absolutely the main thing is that she is doing well now and we look forward to seeing her back on poolside.’
Fuentes has rightly won praise for her quick thinking.
‘It was a big scare. I had to jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it,’ Fuentes said afterwards. ‘I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well. Anita is doing much better.’
Fuentes said she realised something was wrong when Alvarez ‘went down and didn’t react’ rather than coming up after her routine. ‘When a swimmer finishes, the first thing they want to do is breathe,’ she said.
The coach said she motioned to lifeguards for help but they did not see her, ‘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.’
Fuentes said Alvarez ‘was not breathing’ when she reached her but was revived and checked for signs of damage after the terrifying incident.
‘Oxygen, glucose, heart, blood pressure, everything’s fine,’ she said, adding that Alvarez will rest today before returning to the pool because ‘she has to swim the final’.
Fuentes said in a post that doctors had checked all of Alvarez’s vital signs and she ‘feels good’ after the scare in the pool
Alvarez is seen moments before fainting as she competed in the Women Solo Free Final at the Budapest World Championships
Alvarez initially appeared well as she performed her routine but the problems started when she went underwater
The 25-year-old, pictured alongside her coach Fuentes (left), was born in Buffalo, New York, and began synchronised swimming after graduating high school
Speaking in an interview on radio in Spanish, the coach said: ‘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 happing in sport, cyclists, marathons in athletics vomit many times. She told 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.’
She added: ‘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.
‘But it is that we spend many hours in sync. What happens is, we do exercises to endure as much as possible for the competition, and today it happened during the competition.’
USA Artistic Swimming said in a statement on Thursday: ‘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.’
Last year, Alvarez fainted during an Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona, where she was also rescued by Fuentes.
Speaking to Spectrum News afterwards, Alvarez said she had been in the pool for 14 hours the day before the incident.
‘I didn’t get enough sleep, honestly. By the time we got back, I had to be up at like 5:30 again the next morning to go back.’
She described a sensation of being in a ‘hamster wheel’ before losing consciousness.
‘I could see the ceiling spinning, and that’s the last thing I remember until I got to the wall.’
Alvarez told the outlet at the time that the incident was due to her demanding schedule but admitted she fought on, competing again later that day, because she was desperate to secure a return to the Olympics last summer.
‘Going in the second swim that evening was extra nerve-wracking for me,’ she said. ‘I was not there through the end, but the fact that my muscle memory just kept me going and knew what to do in all of that, I think was pretty amazing.’
Alvarez was pulled out of the rest of the competition after securing a fourth place finish and a return to the Olympics.
This is the second time Alvarez has fainted in a pool during a competition, with Fuentes again coming to her aid during the Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona (pictured)
Coach Fuentes dived into the pool in Barcelona to save Anita Alvarez after she fainted during the Olympic qualifying last year
Coach Fuentes and one of Alvarez’s teammates help the 25-year-old synchronised swimmer out of the water after she fainted while performing a routine
‘Unfortunately I’ve seen it happen to her before – never in competition, though,’ Alvarez’s mother Karen said at the time.
‘I knew right away. On their last element, I could tell something was up. It was hard to watch, definitely.’
Alvarez finished seventh in the event, which was won by Japan’s Yukiko Inui.
Most synchronised swimming routines require athletes to hold their breath for no more than one minute at a time.
The latest incident, coming so soon after the fainting in Barcelona has caused concern among former competitiors.
It is the second time Anita Alvarez (left) has fainted in a pool during a competition, with Fuentes again coming to her aid during the Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona
Last year 25-year-old Alvarez (right, in USA team kit) fainted during an Olympics qualifying event in Barcelona, where she was also rescued by Fuentes
Alvarez (pictured) regained consciousness soon after being rescued from the pool, received immediate first aid and is reportedly recovering well
Three-time Olympic synchronised swimming champion Alla Shishkina has urged US officials to carry out more thorough checks on Anita Alvarez and to ‘look more deeply’ into the reasons why she fainted while competing at the World Championships.
In 2010, Olympic medal winner Fran Crippen died in an open water swimming event in the UAE.
The long distance champion was aged 26 when he competed in the 10,000m event.
Fellow swimmers only noticed he was missing when they reached the finish line, sparking a desperate search to find him.
His body was found two hours after the end of the race by deep sea divers 500 yards from the shore.
Other swimmers at the time said heat may have been a factor, with water temperature at 30C and competitors reporting heat-related symptoms after completing the race.
A report found Crippen died of a ‘cardiac abnormality’.