Synchronized swimmer Anita Alvarez collapses after the freestyle
Anita Alvarez’s pictures go around the world, shocking and disturbing at the same time. Completely exhausted after her freestyle World Championships, the American synchronized swimmer suddenly sinks and floats motionless to the bottom of the pool before she is fished out of the water by her trainer in a spirited rescue operation.
“I had to jump in because the lifeguards wouldn’t do it,” Andrea Fuentes said of Wednesday’s accident. Previously, she had dived into the pool in full gear and had brought the unconscious Alvarez back to the surface: “I was scared because I saw that she was not breathing, but now she is very well,” said Fuentes. All vital functions have been checked. Heart rate, oxygen, blood sugar level, blood pressure – everything is “normal”.
Anita Alvarez coach: She didn’t breathe for at least two minutes
The shock was still in her and her team’s limbs. In the minutes after the terrible incident, they had tearfully feared for the life of their 25-year-old teammate, who had previously passed out in competition during the 2021 Olympic qualification.
“I think she didn’t breathe for at least two minutes because her lungs were full of water,” Fuentes said. Then her protégé “vomited the water, coughed, and that was it. But it was a big shock.”
The German synchronized swimmer Marlene Bojer, who had achieved her best place in the World Championships with tenth place, experienced the drama of Budapest up close. “I think that’s really bad,” said the Munich native. You’ve noticed something like this several times: “When you see it live, your heart really stops and you just think: For God’s sake.”
Synchronized swimmers: Not the first collapse in competitions
At the end of a freestyle, synchronized swimming is “absolutely at the limit. Muscular, from the head, from the energy – everything is just out there,” says Bojer: “We cover everything with the smile, the emotions and the music. But in such a situation you can see that we are also physically at the limit and that our sport demands the highest performance from us.”
There was a similar case with the German water jumpers. In 2010, national coach Lutz Buschkow jumped into the pool for a rescue operation in Rostock after Maria Kurjo hit her head on the tower and fell unconscious into the water.
The incident from twelve years ago ended lightly – similar to that with Alvarez. “Tomorrow she will rest all day and decide with the doctor whether she can swim freely in the team final or not,” said Fuentes and thanked “for all the good wishes for Anita”.
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Anita Alvarez still wants to start at the World Cup final
Anita Alvarez does not rule out a start in the team final two days after collapsing in the solo free program at the swimming world championships in Budapest. The American will rest on Thursday, “and then decide with the doctor whether she can swim the team final in the free program or not,” said trainer Andrea Fuentes in a statement on Instagram.
Her trainer criticized the lifeguards after the incident. The assistants just “gawped” and “didn’t react,” Fuentes complained, emphasizing that one sometimes forgets that this also happens in other high-performance sports.
“Marathon, cycling, cross-country skiing… we’ve all seen images where some athletes don’t make it to the finish line and others help them get there. Our sport is no different than others, only that we reach our limits in a swimming pool and sometimes find them,” said the trainer and thanked her athlete for the many recovery wishes.