The swimmer who passed out and had to be rescued at the world championships has received bad news.
Artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez, who was dramatically rescued from the bottom of the pool after fainting, has been banned from competing at the world championships.
The American had indicated hours earlier that she wanted to return to the pool to compete in the team event on Saturday morning – but her return was halted on the spot by swimming’s governing body FINA.
His coach Andrea Fuentes, who was hailed as a hero for his quick action in jumping into the pool to save Alvarez, said ahead of the team event final that Alvarez “would almost certainly be in competition”.
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It comes a day after the staggering revelation that Alvarez didn’t breathe for more than two minutes during the incident that stunned the world.
Incredible underwater photos captured this spooky episode.
Team USA medical staff cleared Alvarez to compete, but FINA rescinded it.
“It was a decision that FINA made,” said Selina Shah, US artistic swim team physician.
“In my opinion she could have competed, I’m very confident,” Shah said.
FINA said it had organized a medical examination on Friday morning that included three representatives of its medical commission, its executive director, Dr Shah and officials from the US team.
“As a result of these discussions, FINA has determined that Anita Alvarez should not compete today,” FINA said in a statement.
“The health and safety of athletes must always come first. While FINA understands why this decision will have been disappointing for the athlete, it was a decision that was made with his best interests in mind.
The governing body said they were “delighted” that Alvarez had made “such a strong recovery” and looked forward to seeing her competing again soon.
Shah said she didn’t know how FINA came to its conclusion that Alvarez should not compete.
“I’m not aware of their decision-making process.”
Fuentez’s earlier comment showed how stunned the team was by FINA’s decision.
“She doesn’t want to leave here with the picture of her unconscious at the bottom of the pool,” Fuentez said of Alvarez.
“Anyway, in the team events, Anita does a lot of pirouettes and very little apnea, so she will almost certainly be competing.”
Alvarez had been entered into the team event on Friday and was on all official start lists until the time the event was due to begin, when she was replaced in the eight-woman squad by Yujin Chang.
Standing in the warm-up area before the event, as the American swimmers made their final preparations behind her, Shah said she was sure Alvarez would cheer on the team.
“I think she’s very excited for the team to compete and she’s a great athlete and she’ll be there to support them.”
Team USA finished ninth out of 12 in an event won by China.
On Wednesday, AFP’s underwater robot camera captured stunning footage as Alvarez sank and Fuentes dove to the bottom of the pool and dragged the swimmer to the surface.
The USA Artistic Team originally released a statement on Thursday saying Alvarez passed out due to her exertions during the routine.
“It happened to him once last year during the Olympic qualifying tournament during a duet competition,” added an American spokeswoman.
A swimmer speaks for the first time of a near-tragedy
Alvarez, a two-time Olympian, also broke her silence on Friday night, revealing extraordinary details about her near-tragedy.
“I remember feeling like it was a really good performance,” Alvarez told NBC Nightly News in an exclusive interview after Wednesday’s individual final, in which she finished seventh.
“Like, my best by far and not just how I performed, but just that I was really enjoying it and really living in the moment too,” she said.
“So because of that, I feel really happy and really proud.”
Alvarez, who was joined by Fuentes for the interview, said she “gave it her all until the very end” of her performance.
“And then I remember coming downstairs and being like, kinda like, uh oh, like, I’m not feeling too good, and that’s literally the last thing I remember, actually,” she said.
Freezing rescuers didn’t act fast enough
Fuentes criticized the slow response from lifeguards to the World Aquatics Championships, which end on Sunday.
“When I saw it sink I looked at the rescuers, but I saw they were dazed. They didn’t react,” Fuentes said.
“I thought, ‘Do you want to jump now?’ My reflexes quickly kicked in. I’m like that, I can’t just watch.
“I didn’t think about it too much, I jumped. I think it was the craziest and fastest free dive I have ever done in my career.
“I picked her up and lifted her, obviously she was heavy, it wasn’t easy.”
— with AFP