Who is Andrea Fuentes? Quick-thinking coach saves swimmer Anita Alvarez from drowning

The artistic swimmer, still unconscious, was taken on a stretcher to the pool’s medical center amidst warm applause from the crowd


                            Who is Andrea Fuentes? Quick-thinking coach saves swimmer Anita Alvarez from drowning
US coach Andrea Fuentes knew something was wrong when she saw artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez sink motionless to the bottom of the pool during a solo free routine on Wednesday (Twitter)
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Coach Andrea Fuentes rescued artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez of the USA team after she fainted and sunk underwater at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Budapest. Fuentes dove into the pool on Wednesday, June 22 to save Anita, who had lost consciousness after completing her routine and was sinking to the bottom of the pool.

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Coach Fuentes, who was dressed in casual clothes, thought on her feet and quickly dove in to rescue the athlete. She took hold of her 25-year-old trainee and swam to the surface, where the competition assistant managed to get her to the edge of the pool.

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The artistic swimmer, still apparently unconscious, was then taken on a stretcher to the pool’s medical center, amidst warm applause from the spectators in the arena, though her family and teammates were clearly still in shock. Her coach Fuentes said, "I jumped into the water again because I saw that no one, no lifeguard, was jumping in."

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Anita Alvarez was taken on a stretcher to the pool's medical center (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The US Team released a statement later on the current condition of the athlete. "Anita is much better, she is already at her best," it said. On the other hand, coach Fuentes explained why Alvarez fainted. She said the primary reason was the effort the athlete had put in. "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. It felt like a whole hour. I said things weren’t right, I was shouting at the life guards to get into the water, but they didn’t catch what I said or they didn’t understand. She wasn’t breathing and had a really high pulse rate; I went [to her] as quickly as I could, as if it were an Olympic final."

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Fuentes continued, "When I got her out she wasn’t breathing, her jaw was locked in place. There was water coming out and she still wasn’t breathing. They got her out on her back and I put her on her side, because you can’t breathe like that. She recovered very quickly. It was two minutes without breathing, and with your pulse at 180 [beats per minute] you don’t want to be two minutes without breathing."

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Although the experience was rather shocking, the coach and the athlete are now laughing about it. "Today we’ve seen where the limit is; this is what being an athlete is, we want to see where the limit of the human body is, and she’s someone who likes to take it to the limit,” Fuentes added.

Who is Andrea Fuentes?

Fuentes is a 39-year-old retired Spanish synchronized swimmer. She joined the Spanish synchronized swim team in 1999 and has competed at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics. Fuentes won four medals in the women's duet team, making her one of the most decorated Spanish Olympians of all time. She retired in 2013 owing to a lack of motivation and a string of injuries. She has been a swimming coach ever since. 

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