What Olympic Artistic Swimmer Anita Alvarez Is Looking Forward to in Paris

Fitness
US artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez poses at the Bussys swimming pool in Eaubonne, France.
AFP via Getty Images | Bertrand Guay
AFP via Getty Images | Bertrand Guay

Anita Alvarez was destined for the pool. She grew up accompanying her mom, who was an artistic swimming coach, to competitions. And though the 27-year-old Olympian says that her mom never “pushed” her to do it competitively, it was clearly in her bones.

“I grew up on the pool deck with her, before I could even swim, just watching the sport,” she says. “I just loved it from the beginning.”

It wasn’t until Alvarez was 11 or 12 that she got more serious about the sport — a young age to put your mind to something, but a determination that clearly paid off. She was at a tournament where the Olympic artistic swimming team was handing out awards, and that’s where “everything sparked.” Alvarez thought to herself, “I want to go to the Olympics.”

That determination is doubly impressive when you consider that growing up, Alvarez didn’t necessarily see herself reflected in artistic swimming, given that it’s a predominantly white sport. She still thinks back to her own childhood and how she wants to project a different image of the sport for kids today. As she puts it, “It’s very special for me to be able to represent the Latine community. I’m hoping that young kids at home can watch and realize that this could be their dream, too.”

Alvarez did eventually make her way to the Games: her Olympics debut was in 2016 in the women’s duet competition, and she returned to the same event in 2020. But this is the first year that she’ll travel with an entire nine-person squad to the Summer Games in Paris, which, as the only returning Olympian, she’s extremely excited for.

“Everyone else on the team will be first-time Olympians, so I’m excited to experience that moment with them,” she says. “All the firsts for them are just going to be really cool.”

“It’s more about finding joy in this experience and each other.”

Paris will also be very different from Alvarez’s last Olympics appearance for another reason — no spectators were allowed in Tokyo because of the pandemic. Alvarez says she can’t wait for her family to experience the Games, seeing as they weren’t allowed to accompany her back in 2021. “They’ve sacrificed so much for me, and they’ve been just as much a part of this whole journey, so I love getting to experience the Olympics, but them getting to experience it is that much more special,” she says.

Alvarez and the rest of her team are in the throes of training right now; their days stretch from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day, save for Sundays. That’s the one day of the week where Alvarez can really slow down and catch up on all her “adulting” things: laundry, dishes, meal prep. Still, it’s important for her to cultivate feel-good Sunday rituals away from chores: “I live super close to the beach, so I love walking down to the ocean; I love just being outside in any way. I usually like to move still on my day off, whether that’s yoga or walking, because if not, I feel even worse on my Monday.”

DOHA, QATAR - FEBRUARY 05: (EDITORS NOTE: Image taken using an underwater remote camera.) Anita Alvarez, Calista Liu, Jaime Czarkowski, Jacklyn Luu, Megumi Field, Daniella Ramirez, Keana Hunter and Ruby Remati of Team United States compete in the Mixed Te
Team USA competes at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar, in February. (Getty | Quinn Rooney)

As the team “fine tunes” their routine for the Games, Alvarez is trying to stay present and grateful to be able to do the thing she’s loved since childhood on the world’s biggest stage. She remembers what it was like to look up to other Olympians and be inspired by what they were able to achieve. That included her now-head coach, Andrea Fuentes, who was an artistic swimmer for Spain — and who continues to inspire Alvarez every day.

“She wants us all to finish this Olympic experience thinking, if we had this chance again, we’d do it 10 times over,” Alvarez says. “She coaches and leads from a place of love and wants to help us be the best humans we can be, not just artistic swimmers and athletes. I think that inspires me and my teammates to be the best versions of ourselves, and the results that come will come. It’s more about finding joy in this experience and each other.”

Lena Felton is the director of special content at PS, where she oversees features and special projects. Previously, she was an editor at The Washington Post, where she led a team covering issues of gender and identity. She has six years of experience in journalism during which her focus has been feature writing and editing as well as spearheading projects you won’t find anywhere else.

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