Katherine Diaz, a 22-year-old who was preparing to surf in the Olympics, has died after being struck by lightning while training on the water last week, officials say.
Diaz was training off El Tunco beach in her native El Salvador on Friday when she was struck, according to the country’s surfing federation, FESASURF.
“A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” the surf federation said in a post. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.”
Her uncle, Beto Diaz, told a newspaper that he was in the water with her when the lightning strike occurred. He says she had just finished giving a friend a hug.
“As soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” he said. “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too. The board threw me back.”
He added that Diaz died “instantly.”
Paramedics tried to revive her at the scene but they were unsuccessful.
“We offer a prayer for the eternal rest of her soul,” the National Institute of Sports of El Salvador said in a statement.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) also mourned her death in a statement on Saturday.
“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. “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.”
“You’ll forever be in our hearts,” Diaz’s brother, Jose, wrote on Instagram after her death. “God decided to take you now. We miss you already.”
Diaz had been preparing for the ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador. The event is serving as a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.