El Salvador’s top surfer, who had been preparing fo the sport’s Olympic debut this summer, has been struck and killed by lightning during a training session.
“A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” the Salvadoran Surf Federation said in a post paying tribute to Katherine Diaz on social media. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.”
The 22 year-old had entered the water to start a training session on Friday near her home in El Tunco when she was struck. Emergency services tried to revive her on the beach, but the attempts were unsuccessful. Spanish newspaper AS reported that a sudden change in weather had caught those on the beach by surprise: “the sky was clear and it was an unforeseen storm that did not seem to carry much electrical intensity either.”
The International Surfing Association paid tribute to Diaz in a Facebook post.
“It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz,” read the statement. “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport.”
Diaz was preparing for May’s ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador, which will act as a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.