Olympic Swimmer Speaks Out After Hero Coach Saves Her from Drowning Mid-Competition: 'So Grateful'

Anita Alvarez and Andrea Fuentes spoke to NBC Nightly News following the now-viral rescue

Anita Alvarez's bond with coach Andrea Fuentes has gotten even stronger.

The 25-year-old Team USA artistic swimmer spoke to NBC Nightly News Thursday about the gratitude she feels to her coach. Fuentess epically rescued Alvarez during the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday when she fainted in the water following her performance in the women's solo free routine

Appearing virtually with her coach to address the rescue, in a segment that aired on Today Friday, Alvarez said everything "went black" and "happened really fast." Recalling the last thing she remembered before losing consciousness, Alvarez said she thought, "'Uh oh, I don't feel so great.' "

Seeing the situation before the lifeguards did, Fuentes, fully clothed, leapt to her rescue as Alvarez begin to sink below the surface. "I know that when you finish, you really want to breathe," the retired Olympian explained. "So as soon as she was going down, I immediately knew something was wrong."

Fuentes, 39, dived below and brought Alvarez to the surface with aid from another swimmer who helped complete the rescue, and said the uncertainty of the emergency felt like an eternity.

"It was like in slow motion for me. For Anita it was fast, but for me, it was like a year," the coach said.

Submerged for almost two minutes, Alvarez's lungs were filled with water, but she had a pulse and started gasping for air moments after she was lifted out of the pool. "I think right away I knew I would be okay, as soon as I started breathing and everything," Alvarez said.

A member of Team USA (R) recovers USA's Anita Alvarez (L), from the bottom of the pool during an incident in the women's solo free artistic swimming finals, during the Budapest 2022 World Aquatics Championships
Coach Andrea Fuentes (R) rescuing swimmer Anita Alvarez. OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

While Alvarez likely fainted during Wednesday's event due to exhaustion, Fuentes has saved the swimmer before.

Last June, the coach hopped into the water to pull Alvarez to safety after she lost consciousness at a qualifying event in Barcelona for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

On the debt she feels, Alvarez said, "I say this all the time to her and to other people: I'm just so grateful to have her as a coach."

Anita Alvarez (C) of Team United States is attended to by USA's coach Andrea Fuentes (L) and medical staff following her Women's Solo Free Final performance on day six of the Budapest 2022 FINA World Championships at Alfred Hajos National Aquatics Complex on June 22, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.
Andrea Fuentes rescues Anita Alvarez. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty

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USA Artistic Swimming has not yet announced if Alvarez will compete in the free team final on Friday, but Today reported that Alvarez has been cleared by doctors to return to the pool.

"Anita has been evaluated by medical staff and will continue to be monitored," the governing body said in a statement after Wednesday's scare. "She is feeling much better and using today to rest."

Today airs weekdays on NBC, beginning at 7 a.m. ET.

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