Salvadoran Surfer Vying for Tokyo Olympics Dies After Being Struck by Lightning

Katherine Diaz, 22, was training to compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, where surfing will make its debut

katherine diaz
Katherine Diaz. Photo: Instagram

Katherine Diaz, a 22-year-old surfer from El Salvador who was preparing in hopes of competing at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, died last Friday after being struck by lightning, according to multiple reports.

According to local outlet Cancha in El Salvador, Katherine was training in the water at El Tunco beach, located in the southwest region of the country, when the lightning strike occurred. Despite onlookers attempting to help before paramedics' arrival, Katherine died.

The International Surfing Association (ISA) confirmed Katherine's death on Twitter, writing, "Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport. She excelled at the int'l competition level, representing her country with pride at both the World Surfing Games and ISA World Jr Surfing Championship."

Beto Diaz, Katherine's uncle, told Cancha that he was with Katherine in the water when she was killed.

"Upon reaching the beach, Katherine met a German friend, who was also going surfing at the time," said Beto. "Katherine approached to hug her, as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard. She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me. Katherine passed away instantly."

Multiple outlets also reported that the storm was unexpected and it had been a sunny day.

katherine diaz
Katherine Diaz. Instagram

"Katherine was a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made each day feel worthwhile," Katherine's sister Erika told Cancha. "Unfortunately it left us. She died doing what she liked the most, on her favorite wave at the mouth."

According to the Olympic Channel, Katherine was preparing for the ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador. The event, which is set to take place from May 29 to June 6, serves as a qualifier for this year's Summer Games, where surfing will make its Olympic debut.

Katherine also worked as a chef and had opened her own restaurant in El Tuco, according to reports.

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