The swimmer who passed out and had to be rescued at the world championships has received bad news.
A battle of words has erupted at the World Swimming Championships after artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez was barred from competing.
The 25-year-old was dramatically rescued from the bottom of the Budapest swimming pool after passing out. She has reportedly gone more than two minutes without breathing.
The American had indicated just hours earlier that she wanted to return to the pool to participate in the Saturday morning team event – but her comeback was halted on the spot by swimming governing body FINA.
Her coach Andrea Fuentes, who has been labeled a hero for her quick action by jumping into the pool to save Alvarez, said before the final of the team event that Alvarez would “almost certainly participate”.
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Incredible underwater photos captured the terrifying episode.
The U.S. team’s medical staff authorized Alvarez to participate, but the FINA ignored it.
“That was a decision FINA made,” said Selina Shah, the team doctor of American artistic swimming.
“In my opinion she could have participated, I am very confident,” Shah said.
FINA said it had organized a medical inquiry Friday morning in which three representatives of the medical committee, the executive director, Dr. Shah and US team officials were involved.
“Following these discussions, FINA has decided that Anita Alvarez will not be allowed to participate today,” FINA said in a statement.
“The health and safety of athletes should always come first. While FINA understands why this decision will have been disappointing for the athlete, it was made with its best interests in mind.
The governing body said it was “elated” that Alvarez had made “such a strong recovery” and looked forward to seeing her back in competition soon.
Shah said she was not sure how FINA had come to the conclusion that Alvarez was not allowed to participate.
“I am not aware of their decision-making process.”
Fuentez’s earlier comment showed how stunned the team was by the FINA ruling.
“She doesn’t want to leave here with the photo of her unconscious at the bottom of the pool,” Fuentez said of Alvarez.
“In any case, Anita does a lot of pirouettes and very little apnea, so she will almost certainly participate.”
Enrolled in the team event on Friday, Alvarez was on every official start list until just before the event was due to start, when she was replaced on the eight women’s squad by Yujin Chang.
Standing in the warm-up area for the event, with the American swimmers behind her making final preparations, Shah said she was confident Alvarez would cheer on the team.
“I think she’s really excited for the team to participate and she’s a great athlete and she’ll be there to support them.”
The US team finished ninth out of 12 in an event won by China.
On Wednesday, AFP’s underwater robotic camera captured astonishing images as Alvarez sank and Fuentes dove to the bottom of the pool, dragging the swimmer to the surface.
The US artistic team originally released a statement Thursday saying that Alvarez passed out from her exertion during the routine.
“This happened to her once during the Olympic Qualifiers last year when she was doing her duet,” a US spokeswoman added.
Swimmer speaks for the first time about near-tragedy
Alvarez, a two-time Olympian, also broke her silence on Friday night, revealing extraordinary details of her near-tragedy.
“I remember thinking it was a great performance,” Alvarez told NBC Nightly News in an exclusive interview after Wednesday’s individual final, in which she finished seventh.
“Like, by far my best and not just how I performed, but just that I really enjoyed it and also really lived in the moment,” she said.
“So that’s why I feel very happy and very proud.”
Alvarez, who was joined by Fuentes for the interview, said she “gave everything to the end” of her performance.
“And then I remember going down and just kind of, uh oh, like, I don’t feel so great, and that’s literally the last thing I remember, really,” she said.
Frozen lifeguards didn’t act fast enough
Fuentes was critical of the lifeguards’ slow response to the Aquatic World Cup, which ends on Sunday.
“When I saw her sink, I looked at the rescuers, but I saw that they were stunned. They didn’t respond,” Fuentes said.
‘I thought, are you going to jump in now?’ My reflexes started quickly. I’m like this, I can’t just stare.
“I didn’t think about it, I jumped. I think it was the craziest and fastest freedive I’ve ever done in my career.
“I picked her up and lifted her. She was obviously heavy. It wasn’t easy.”
— with AFP
Originally published as Drowning Swimmer Banned From World Championships