Olympic medalist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson (Boise, ID) was praised as a great champion Monday as the skiing community reacted to news of his death. A true innovator in freestyle skiing, Peterson created the groundbreaking “Hurricane,” a five-twist and three-flip aerial maneuver that landed him a silver medal in Vancouver.
Peterson passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound near Salt Lake City Monday night (July 25).
“Today is a sad day for skiing. Jeret “Speedy” Peterson was a great champion who will be missed and remembered as a positive, innovative force on not only his sport of freestyle aerials, but on the entire U.S. Freestyle Ski Team family and everyone he touched,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt.
Peterson, the Ski Racing Magazine 2001 Freestyle Junior of the Year and 11-year member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, was one of the most accomplished freestyle aerialists in U.S. history, compiling 15 World Cup podiums and seven victories in six years. His emotional reaction after winning his silver medal touched the nation, as fans cheered his resolve to overcome his difficult past.
Peterson was very open about his rocky past, which included a recurring battling with alcohol addiction and being sent home from the 2006 Winter Games for getting in a bar fight. The three-time Olympian made headlines last week after being arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Idaho native continually raised the level within his sport, most notably by thrilling a crowd of thousands with back-to-back World Cup victories at Deer Valley, UT in January of 2007, the second of which set a world record two-jump score of 268.70, despite freezing temperatures and eight inches of fresh snow at 2002 Olympic venue. The record still stands.
“The entire Olympic family is heartbroken to hear the news of Jeret “Speedy” Peterson’s untimely passing,” said U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun. “I know Speedy’s friends and family were incredibly proud of his effort in Vancouver and his achievements were an inspiration to people all over the world. The personal challenges that Speedy has battled are familiar to all of us, and on behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee, I’d like to offer my sympathy to Speedy’s family and friends. Today is a sad day.”
His nickname “Speedy” was given to him by coaches when as a young boy when he kept cutting in line to get more jumps into the splash pool. Because of his big helmet, coaches decided he looked like the fabled cartoon character Speed Racer.
He went on to win the ’99 U.S. Junior Championship title, collected aerials bronze at the 2000 and ’01 Junior Worlds Championships, and was a member of three Olympic and four World Championship Teams.
Peterson had not planned on competing during the 2012 season and was a full-time business student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
Memorial information will be available at a later time.
MORE DETAILS AND REACTION TO COME
Image by Gepa