Katherine Diaz was just a few months away from possibly being able to represent her home country, El Salvador, in the Olympics as a surfer. This year will mark the first time surfing will be apart of the Olympic lineup, and Diaz could’ve made history by qualifying for the Games in May.
But just a few months before the Tokyo Olympics, Diaz was struck by lightning and tragically killed while training in El Salvador. She was just 22 years old.
Surfing makes its Olympics debut in 2021
Surfing might be seen as just a hobby to the casual fan, but professional surfing competitions have actually been around for nearly 100 years. In 2021, professional surfers can earn a comfortable living riding the ocean’s biggest waves, as cash prizes for the world’s top tournaments can reach over $100,000.
But although surfing has become a worldwide phenomenon today, it’s never been recognized as an official sport in the Olympic Games. Well, until now.
The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee proposed the addition of five new sports to the Olympics last year, and surfing just happened to be one of them. When the delayed Olympic Games finally get underway in July, surfing will be involved for the first time ever.
Olympic surfing hopeful Katherine Diaz tragically killed after being struck by lightning
Katherine Diaz was one of the many talented, young surfers with dreams of competing in the first-ever surfing competition at the Olympic Games this summer. She was one of the most promising stars out of El Salvador, and she planned to compete in the 2021 Surf City El Salvador World Surfing Games in late May in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics.
But a freak accident has tragically put an end to her surfing dreams.
On Friday, Diaz was struck by lightning and instantly killed while training in the water at El Tunco beach in El Salvador. Her uncle, Beto Diaz, was with her at the time of the lightning strike.
“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” Beto Diaz told a newspaper in El Salvador. “She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly.”
International Surfing Association releases statement on Katherine Diaz’s tragic death
After Diaz’s death was confirmed, the International Surfing Association (ISA) issued a statement on Facebook about her life and legacy in the sport.
“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 Facebook post. “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.”