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Watch: US swimmer may compete again at World Championships after being rescued from pool

Artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez, who was dramatically rescued from the bottom of the pool after fainting, has yet to decide whether to return to the pool for her final event, the team said on Thursday.

Coach Andrea Fuentes leapt in to rescue Alvarez, who had sunk to the bottom of the pool and was not breathing after passing out at the conclusion of her routine during Wednesday night’s solo free final.

“Anita is doing fine and taking today to rest. She has been fully evaluated by both our team doctor and event medical staff. She currently has one final event left to participate in at the 2022 World Championships and she will decide if she feels up to compete tomorrow if she is cleared medically,” said Alyssa Jacobs, spokeswoman for the team.

The 25-year-old Alvarez is in the US team for the Team Free Final on Friday.

“This happened to her once last year at the Olympic Qualification Tournament when competing her duet,” said Jacobs. “Prior to that, she has had sporadic issues with fainting but never in competition.” 

On Wednesday, Fuentes, dressed not in swimming gear but in 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 jump in because the lifeguards weren’t doing it,” Fuentes was reported as saying by Spanish newspaper Marca.

“I was scared because I saw she wasn’t breathing, but now she is doing very well,” said Fuentes, a four-time Olympic artistic swimming medallist.

Alvarez was taken on a stretcher to the pool’s medical centre, with teammates and fans appearing to be in shock poolside, with some in tears consoling each other.

“It was very intense,” Fuentes told AS newspaper. “I think she was at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water.

“But we were able to take her to a good place, she vomited the water, coughed and that was it, but it was a big scare.”

Alvarez scored enough from the judges to finish seventh in the 12-woman final.   

Lifeguards ‘stunned’

Fuentes was critical of the slow reaction of the lifeguards at the Aquatic World Championships, which finish on Sunday after 10 days of competition.

“When I saw her sinking, I looked at the rescuers, but I saw that they were stunned. They didn’t react,” Fuentes was reported as saying by the newspaper.

“I thought, ‘Will you jump in now?’ My reflexes kicked in quickly. I’m like that, I can’t just stare. 

“I didn’t overthink it, I jumped. I think it was the craziest and fastest free dive I’ve ever done in my career.

“I picked her up and lifted her, obviously she was heavy, it wasn’t easy.”

The USA artistic team released a statement from Fuentes on social media, saying Alvarez had fainted due to the effort expended during the routine. 

“Anita is okay — the doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure,” Fuentes said in the statement. 

“We sometimes forget that this happens in other high-endurance sports. Marathon, cycling, cross country … we all have seen images, where some athletes don’t make it to the finish line and others, help them to get there,” she added.

“Our sport is no different than others, just in a pool, we push through limits and sometimes we find them. Anita feels good now and the doctors also say she is OK.”

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