Olympic Surfing Prospect Dies After Being Struck by Lightning During Training

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A 22-year-old Olympic surfing hopeful died after being struck by lightning on Friday while training for an Olympic qualifying event.

Katherine Díaz caught a flight back to El Salvador from Mexico and went to train with her uncle at El Tunco Beach, about 10 miles south of the capital San Salvador, when the incident occurred. 

"Katherine came over to hug her [friend]. As soon as she finished hugging her, the roar was heard," Beto Díaz, her uncle, told Salvadorian outlet Cancha. "She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning, too; the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly."

On Sunday, Díaz was buried across from the beach where she died as hundreds of people attended a seaside memorial for the surfer. 

"I could not cremate her remains but I did make sure that she rests in front of the sea, because the sea was her life," Diaz's mother, Rosa Amelia Hernández, told Cancha.

Díaz was preparing for the International Surfing Association (ISA) 2021 Surf City El Salvador World Surfing Games at the end of May, which serves as the last qualifying event before surfing makes its debut at the Tokyo Olympics 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 ISA said in a statement.

"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."