An Olympic surfing hopeful from El Salvador died while training for a competition, according to the country's National Institute of Sport (INDES). Katherine Diaz, 22, was practicing at the Pacific Coast beach of El Tunco when she was struck by lightning on Friday.
"Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard," Diaz's uncle, Beto Diaz, who says he was in the water with her, told a newspaper in El Salvador, as reported by CNN. "She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly."
So sad to share the news of Salvadoran surfer, Katherine Diaz’s, @katherinecook7, passing. She was one of El Salvador’s most popular surf athletes with large recognition for popularizing women’s surfing in El Salvador... pic.twitter.com/MKHPmvCNgY— Central American Art (@CentAm_Beauty) March 20, 2021
Diaz was training for a global tournament set to be held El Salvador, which serves as a qualifying event for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. "Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport," the International Surfing Association said of the Diaz, whose brother, Jose Diaz, is the president of the Salvadoran Surf Federation (FESASURF). "She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine's family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched." Diaz's funeral was held on Sunday. Along with being a surfer, Diaz was a chef and had her own business in El Tunco.
Surfing is one of the new events for the Olympics. According to the Toyko Olympics official website, "The USA has a deep history based upon the roots of the sport itself. Australia is renowned for its strong surfers and for dominating decades of elite competition. More recently, Brazil has begun to pave the way for Latin America with its undeniable 'Brazilian storm.' establishing a new dominance within a sport that is now second only to football (soccer) in popularity." The first two rounds of the Olympic surfing will take place at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 25. The third round will take place on the following day followed by the quarterfinals (July 27) and the medal matches (July 28).