Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare

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Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - GETTY IMAGES
Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - GETTY IMAGES

The American artistic swimmer who fainted in the water during her world title competition routine has been stopped from taking part in a team event due to health fears.

Swimming's world governing body ruled Anita Alvarez was unsafe to continue competition at the Fina World Championships in Budapest, having fallen unconscious and sunk to the bottom of the pool on Wednesday.

Alvarez, 25, had been hoping to take part in the team finals, but, after an hour-long meeting of the governing body, she was told she "should not compete today".

"The health and safety of athletes must always come first," said a statement. "While Fina understands why this decision will have been disappointing to the athlete, it was a decision that was made with her best interests in mind."

Head coach Andrea Fuentes, a four-time Olympic medallist in synchronised swimming, had dived in and pulled Alvarez up towards the surface during the dramatic rescue. A fellow athlete also swam across to assist in the rescue as distraught American spectators looked on. It had been the second time in just over a year that she had fainted in the water during her routine.

Fuentes dives in to lift Alvarez from the bottom of the pool - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AFP
Fuentes dives in to lift Alvarez from the bottom of the pool - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AFP
Another swimmer helps Fuentes get Alvarez (left), from the bottom of the pool - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AFP
Another swimmer helps Fuentes get Alvarez (left), from the bottom of the pool - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AFP
Fans and teammates react - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AP
Fans and teammates react - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - AP

Following the meeting with Team USA and the President of USA Artistic Swimming, Fina clarified that Alvarez can soon return to the sport, however.

"Fina is delighted that Anita Alvarez has already made such a strong recovery, and looks forward to seeing her in competition again soon," the statement added.

Alvarez was involved in an almost identical incident in an Olympic qualifying event in Barcelona on June 13 last year, Fuentes again coming to the rescue after she briefly lost consciousness. Alvarez was “not breathing” when she was rescued from the bottom of the pool after fainting at the World Aquatics Championships.

On Wednesday, Fuentes responded to the drama by diving in fully clothed to pull the swimmer to safety. “It was a big scare,” Fuentes was reported as saying by Spanish newspaper Marca. “I was scared because I saw she was not breathing, but now she is doing very well. She only had water in her lungs, once she started breathing again everything was OK.”

Alvarez is attended to by medical staff - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - REUTERS
Alvarez is attended to by medical staff - Swimmer Anita Alvarez banned from competing in team event due to health fears after drowning scare - REUTERS

And speaking to Spanish radio, she said: “It felt like a whole hour. I said things weren’t right, I was shouting at the lifeguards to get into the water, but they didn’t catch what I said or they didn’t understand.

“She wasn’t breathing. I went as quickly as I could, as if it were an Olympic final.”

Alvarez was given medical attention poolside before being taken away on a stretcher. Fuentes said: “Anita is OK - the doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, et cetera… all is OK."

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