Lifeguards Did Not Initially Attempt To Save Unconscious Swimmer Due To 'Extremely Strict FINA Rules'

Sports organizers have come under fire this week after lifeguards failed to help an artistic swimming competitor who fainted underwater.
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After falling unconscious in the pool, American artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez had to be rescued by her coach at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, this Thursday (June 23).

After the athlete fainted, her startled coach - four-time Olympic medallist Andrea Fuentes - dived into the pool fully clothed and dragged her to the surface. Fuentes and another bystander managed to get Alvarez out of the water, where she was treated by medics and regained consciousness.

The heroic coach says the swimmer stopped breathing for two minutes.
Credit: Xinhua / Alamy
According to BBC News, Fuentes initially criticized the lifeguards on Spanish radio for their inaction.

"It felt like a whole hour. I said things weren't right, I was shouting at the lifeguards to get into the water, but they didn't catch what I said or they didn't understand," she is reported as having said.

However, the head of the Hungarian medical service, Bela Merkely, has defended the lifeguards, saying they followed "extremely strict FINA rules" that "determine when lifeguards can intervene." FINA is the international governing body of swimming.

"Under the rules, members of the judges panel delegated by FINA may jump into the pool to signal that a competition program may be interrupted due to any incident," Merkely said per a report by Yahoo! Sport.

"No such signal was received from the judges during Wednesday's final, and no matter if a coach signals to them they are not allowed to intervene," she continued, adding: "After the coach jumped into the pool at her own risk, the local lifeguards, sensing the danger....decided to intervene immediately, so the American competitor finally got out of the pool with their help."

"FINA has been in close contact with Anita Alvarez, her team and the medical staff following a medical emergency during the solo free final of the artistic swimming," the federation said in a statement.

"Ms Alvarez was immediately treated by a medical team in the venue and is in good health," the organization added.

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