Team USA artistic swimming head coach Andrea Fuentes rescued U.S. swimmer Anita Alvarez, who fainted at the end of her routine during a June 22 competition at the World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
After receiving medical treatment, Alvarez, the 2021 athlete of the year for the U.S. artistic swimming team, recovered with normal oxygen levels but was not allowed to compete several days later.
While Fuentes was initially “frustrated” by the slow response from the lifeguards, she said she understands that it is “impossible” for them to react as quickly as her. As Alvarez's coach, she knew that once her routine concluded she would want to breathe air as soon as possible.
“I knew something wrong was happening before it actually happened,” Fuentes told USA TODAY Sports.
This was also not the first time the 39-year-old coach and four-time Olympic medalist from Spain saved Alvarez. A year ago at an Olympic qualification event, Fuentes and Lindi Schroeder, Alvarez's teammate, pulled her from the pool. This year’s situation occurred during a solo event when Alvarez was alone in the water.
Since the incident and the breathtaking pictures by Oli Scarff circulated, Fuentes said she’s had people reach out to her to share personal stories of people who have died or had near-death experiences in the water.
After receiving these kinds of messages, she hopes her actions spotlight the importance of teaching people how to respond if someone is in danger of drowning.
“They should teach this in school,” Fuentes said. “I was shocked with these stories and I realize how important (it) is to bring awareness because we are professionals. We know how it works.”
For the first time since 2009, USA Artistic Swimming had single-digit finishes in all nine categories of competition. Alvarez, a two-time Olympic swimmer, scored a career-high 86.2807 in technical solo, placing sixth, the best finish for Team USA since 2007.
Fuentes said her team is looking forward to the next world championships in 2023 and qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Until then, she will return to Spain and prepare her squad of “underdogs” for a new scoring system that will be implemented.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Team USA artistic swimming coach Andrea Fuentes rescues Anita Alvarez