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
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.
It had appeared that Alvarez had a good chance of taking part. Fuentes said yesterday
she was confident the swimmer would continue to represent her country after tests.
Then today, Fuentes posted footage on Instagram showing members of the American
synchronized swimming team clapping and smiling as a doctor explained the results
of tests on Anita.
She wrote alongside the footage: ‘Team doctor explaining the results of tests of
The round of applause that accompanied the footage of the medic addressing the
team members seemed to leave little doubt the test results had been positive.’
However, as the US team prepared for the event, and before the ban was imposed on
Alvarez, Spanish sports daily As reported that Bela Merkely, the head of the
Hungarian medical service, told local media ahead: ‘There are different types of
athletes. Some tolerate well the variations in the amount of oxygen and carbon
dioxide. But others are more sensitive. She (Anita Alvarez) is one of them. This sport
is probably not one for her.’
On Wednesday, Fuentes plunged into the water to bring out the 25-year-old as she
sank to the bottom. A lifeguard dived in to assist, but the coach has since criticized
the response of staff at the venue, and the sport’s governing body, FINA, has
reportedly launched an investigation.
Fuentes 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 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 broke her silence on her latest ordeal overnight in an interview with NBC
Nightly News and hailed Fuentes’ actions.
She said: ‘I mean I say this all the time to her and to other people, [I’m] just so
grateful to have her as a coach. When I found out she was coming to be our coach, it
was like, I didn’t believe it.’
Of the incident, she added: ‘I remember feeling like it was a really great performance.
Like, my best one by far and not only just how I performed but just that I was actually
enjoying it and really living in the moment too. So, because of that, I feel really happy
and really proud.
‘And then at the very end, I do remember like the very last arm I did, I gave like, it’s
such a simple small arm. But I was like give everything until the very end and I did
that and then I remember going down and just being like, kind of like, ‘uh-oh, I don’t
feel too great. And that’s literally the last thing I remember actually.’
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’.
At no point did the American team rule out Alvarez from participating in the team
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.’