An artistic swimmer from the US team who was dramatically rescued by her coach after collapsing during the world aquatics championships in Budapest on Wednesday has spoken out about the harrowing experience.
“I remember feeling like it was a great performance,” Anita Alvarez, 25, told NBC Nightly News in an exclusive interview after Wednesday’s singles final, in which she finished seventh.
“Like, my best by far and not only because of how I performed, but I also enjoyed it and really lived in the moment,” he said. “So, for that I feel very happy and very proud.”
Álvarez, who was accompanied by her coach, Andrea Fuentes, for the interview, said she gave “everything until the end” of her performance.
“And then I remember I went downstairs and I was like, oh, oh, like, I don’t feel too good, and that’s literally the last thing I remember, actually,” she said.
Alvarez, a two-time Olympian, said she had “started to feel a little bit of numbness in her fingers and then honestly everything went black and that was…sort of,” she said. “It all happened very quickly.”
In shocking footage, Alvarez could be seen floating to the bottom of the pool, apparently unconscious, after completing his solo free routine.
Her coach, Fuentes, who previously won four Olympic medals for Spain, quickly jumped into action, diving into the water to save the swimmer.
Fuentes, still fully dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, could be seen pulling Alvarez to the surface of the water before dragging her to the edge of the pool with the help of an unidentified man.
“As soon as she was going down, I immediately knew something was wrong,” Fuentes told NBC News.
The rescue, he said, felt like it was “in slow motion.”
“For Anita it was quick, but for me it was a year,” he said.
After recovering, Alvarez said, “I think right away I knew I was going to be okay.”
“As soon as I started breathing and I was awake and everything,” she said.
The incident was not the first time Alvarez had been saved by her coach after passing out in the water, as Fuentes also rescued her at an Olympic qualifying event last year in Spain.
“I mean, I say this all the time to her and to other people,” Alvarez said. “I am so grateful to have her as a coach.”
Álvarez is expected to decide with a doctor whether he can swim in the upcoming team free finals at the world aquatics championships.