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Surfer Katherine Diaz killed by lightning strike while training for Olympics

A surfer who was hailed as a “great warrior” and who hoped to compete in the Tokyo Olympics died after she was struck by lightning while training in El Salvador.

Katherine Diaz, 22, her country’s top surfer, was in the water Friday near her home in El Tunco, about 25 miles south of San Salvador, when the weather suddenly changed and lightning struck. Emergency personnel were unable to revive her. She was training for the International Surfing Association’s World Surfing Games, a qualifier for Tokyo, scheduled to begin in May in El Salvador. The sport will make its debut in the Tokyo Games.

“A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” the Salvadoran Surf Federation said in a tribute post on social media. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.”

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According to Spanish newspaper AS (via the Olympic Channel), “The sky was clear, and it was an unforeseen storm that did not seem to carry much electrical intensity, either.”

The ISA wrote on Facebook that Diaz, a chef who had opened her own restaurant in El Tunco, “embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport.” It noted that she had represented “her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.”

On Instagram, her brother, Jose “Bamba” Diaz, wrote: “We will always carry you in our hearts. God decided to take you now. We already miss you. Love forever little sister.”

A funeral for Diaz was held Sunday.

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