Three-time Olympic synchronised swimming champion Alla Shishkina has urged US officials to carry out more thorough checks on Anita Alvarez and to ‘look more deeply’ into the reasons why she fainted while competing at the World Championships and had to be rescued by her coach.
Alvarez was taking part in the final of the women’s solo free event in Budapest on Wednesday when she fell unconscious and sank to the bottom of the pool in shocking and worrying scenes at the Duna Arena.
Her coach Andrea Fuentes leapt into the water and dragged her back to safety with the help of a male lifeguard. Alvarez regained consciousness soon after being rescued from the pool and received immediate first aid.
The 25-year-old is now set to return to action just 48 hours after the incident as she is in line to compete in the team event on Friday.
Amazingly, it is the second time Alvarez has fainted in a pool during a competition, with Fuentes again coming to her aid during an Olympic qualifying event in Barcelona.
And Shishkina, who won gold medals in the team competition at three consecutive Olympics between London 2012 and Tokyo 2020, believes further checks should be conducted on Alvarez before the American competes again.
Anita Alvarez lies at the bottom of the pool in the Budapest World Championships after fainting mid competition yesterday
Alvarez’s coach Andrea Fuentes (pictured right) said she had to leap in because ‘the lifeguards weren’t doing it’
Alvarez is rescued by her coach after losing consciousness and sinking to the bottom of the pool at the World Championships
Alvarez (centre) regained consciousness soon after being rescued and is recovering well in the Hungarian capital Budapest
‘I think the reason must be looked for somewhere deeper,’ the Russian told Sport24. ‘Maybe check the vessels of the brain, do an in-depth encephalogram.
‘If a person loses consciousness like this, then obviously not everything is in order, you need to check your health. I wish that Anita was all right, but I would think about a full examination.
‘Athletes are people who, even if it is dangerous to perform, will still do it.’
Shishkina claims Alvarez may have little choice to compete in the team event, given her standing in the squad, and suggested the problem experienced by the American was not caused by the warm temperatures in the pool.
It’s not the first time the swimmer has fainted in the pool – she did so in Barcelona last year, and Fuentes also saved her on that occasion
The Olympic athlete gained consciousness shortly after she was dragged from the bottom of the pool by her heroic coach
‘I think that Anita will not even think now whether she will survive or not, but will simply perform,’ Shiskina said.
‘I saw that in the group she stands on supports. Usually, the person who stands on the supports can be said to be indispensable, so she simply has no choice, she will have to perform.
‘As for hot water, no. This is not the first time competitions have been held in this pool. If it’s hot outside, the water is cool. It is usually 26-27 degrees. It’s quite comfortable. I performed in 2009 in the outdoor pool at the World Championships in Rome, it was +42 outside. And none of our team fainted.’
Members of the US swim team watching the event were seen shouting as they watched on in horror as Alvarez fainted in the pool at the end of her routine
The American swim team were left visibly shaken by the horrific incident at the Duna Arena in the Hungarian capital
In a statement, USA Swimming said it was ‘heartbreaking’ to see the medical emergency unfold. ‘She gave an exceptional solo performance and competed brilliantly in four preliminary and three final competitions across six days,’ the governing body said.
‘Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored. She is feeling much better and using today to rest. Whether or not she will swim in the free team final on Friday, June 24th will be determined by Anita and expert medical staff.’
The American team was visibly distressed by the horrific incident and were seen consoling each other by the pool afterwards.
Fuentes, speaking on Spanish radio on Wednesday, said she realised something was wrong when Alvarez ‘went down and didn’t react’ rather than coming up after her routine. ‘When a swimmer finishes, the first thing they want to do is breathe,’ she said.
Alvarez had been competing in the final of the women’s solo free event in Budapest on Wednesday when the incident occurred
Three-time Olympic champion Alla Shishkina believes US officials should carry out further checks on Alvarez
The coach said she motioned to lifeguards for help but they did not see her, ‘so I jumped in myself. I went there as fast as I could. I went in even faster than when I was going for Olympic medals.’
Fuentes added: ‘We have looked at many things and the pressure is good. We’ve done a CT scan on his brain, she’s fine.
‘In our sport it happens sometimes, when we go without breathing for a long time, with very high pulses and sometimes the oxygen not getting where it has to get, we faint.
‘But it is that we spend many hours in sync. What happens is, we do exercises to endure as much as possible for the competition, and today it happened during the competition.’
Alvarez finished seventh in the event, which was won by Japan’s Yukiko Inui.
Alvarez (pictured) regained consciousness soon after being rescued from the pool, received immediate first aid and is reportedly recovering well
Most synchronised swimming routines require athletes to hold their breath for no more than one minute at a time.
In 2010, Olympic medal winner Fran Crippen died in an open water swimming event in the UAE. The long distance champion was aged 26 when he competed in the 10,000m event.
Fellow swimmers only noticed he was missing when they reached the finish line, sparking a desperate search to find him.
His body was found two hours after the end of the race by deep sea divers 500 yards from the shore.
Other swimmers at the time said heat may have been a factor, with water temperature at 30C and competitors reporting heat-related symptoms after completing the race. A report found Crippen died of a ‘cardiac abnormality’.
FINA have not publicly commented on the incident involving Alvarez. The worldwide governing body posted on social media about the final and Inui’s victory but did not mention the US swimmer.