Coach Andrea Fuentes jumped into the pool after she saw the 25-year-old artistic swimmer sink to the bottom at the end of her performance in the women’s free skate on Wednesday.
Alvarez felt “really good” on Thursday and medical tests showed everything was “under control,” Fuentes told CNN.
Fuentes, a four-time Olympic champion in synchronized swimming, lifted Alvarez to the surface before helping her to the edge of the pool.
Alvarez, who competed in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, received medical treatment by the pool and was subsequently carried away on a stretcher.
This was the second time Fuentes had to save Alvarez. She jumped into the pool during last year’s Olympic qualification and pulled her to safety along with fellow American swimmer Lindy Schroeder.
“I wasn’t going to wait”
The coach told CNN that while the event might seem strange to the world, it’s not uncommon in the sport for swimmers to regularly hold their breath for long periods of time in an effort to improve their lung capacity, but emphasized that these practices never go against the grain. . medical advice given to them.
Toward the end of Alvarez’s workout on Wednesday, Fuentes noticed that the swimmer’s legs were paler than usual, which caught her attention. And when she saw that Alvarez was going down instead of up to breathe, she dived.
“I already paid attention to it, and then I saw how it falls,” said Fuentes. “I didn’t even ask myself if I should go or not, I just thought I wasn’t going to wait.”
When asked if she felt the rescuers weren’t quick enough to respond to the situation, Fuentes said it was easier for her to spot the problem quickly because “I know Anita very well and I know the sport very well.”
“They did their job and I did mine,” Fuentes added.
The International Swimming Federation (FINA), the sport’s governing body, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the speed of the rescue.
But in a statement to CNN on Thursday, FINA said it had contacted Alvarez, her team and medical staff after what she called a “medical emergency.”
“Ms. Alvarez received immediate medical attention at the event site and is in good health,” the statement said.
Oli Scarff, who captured the stunning footage of the rescue with a remote robotic camera underwater, told CNN he was looking at his computer towards the end of Alvarez’s routine when he heard some noise. He looked at the screen of what the robotic camera was filming and saw a swimmer at the bottom of the pool.
“It was a shocking sight, because as soon as I looked at the robotic camera again, I had such a clear view of the scene, while everyone in the arena was watching it through the surface of the water,” the photographer. told CNN.
“It immediately went from photographing these beautiful photos of this amazing athlete performance… to the moment we just had a heartbeat, now we are photographing a near-death situation,” Scarff said. “Actually, I was very shocked.”
Swimmer wants to compete on Friday
In a statement on the U.S. Artistic Swimming Instagram page, Fuentes said Alvarez will rest on Thursday and will consult with her doctor to see if she can compete in the non-swimming team finals due on Friday, according to FINA. .
“Sometimes we forget that this also happens in other sports that require high endurance. Marathon, cycling, cross-country running… we’ve all seen footage of some athletes not making it to the finish line while others help them get there,” Fuentes added. .
“Our sport is no different, it’s just that in the pool we overcome limitations and sometimes we find them. Now Anita is doing well and the doctors also say that she is fine.”
Fuentes told CNN the swimmer “really wants” to compete on Friday, and doctors have given her permission to do so.
Alvarez, named the 2021 U.S. Swimming Athlete of the Year, finished seventh. Gold went to Japanese Yukiko Inui, second and third places were taken by Ukrainian Marta Fiedina and Greek Evangelia Platanioti.
Born in Kenmore, New York, Alvarez competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials when she was 14 years old. Four years later, she made the team, finishing ninth in the duo at Rio 2016. She was 13th in the same competition in Tokyo 2020.
Christina Maksouris of CNN contributed to this report.