FILE UNDER -- Freestyle

Peterson puts spins on hold this summer

Peterson puts spins on hold this summerHurricane season has subsided for U.S. aerialist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, and, as far as he can tell, its return is indefinite.

The 24-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has been dabbling in a few activities around the house in Park City, Utah, but practicing his signature trick — the Hurricane — has not been among them.

“I’ve jumped a few days up at the sports park, but mostly I’ve been dirt biking and golfing,” Peterson said. “This summer I’ve focused on my personal life away from skiing.”

Whether or not there’s more Hurricanes in Peterson’s future is up in the air, so to speak, as he is unsure if he’s returning to competition this season.

“I’m totally playing it by ear,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll end up skiing. I’m still around all the time, just not feeling like jumping right yet. I’m still enjoying being a kid. After you’ve been focusing on a goal for however many years, finally getting to that point and not exactly succeeding as you planned, you need a break. Right now I’m trying to re-evaluate my life. That includes things outside of skiing.”

The list of ski-career accomplishments is already long for Peterson. It includes a 2005 World Cup championship, several World Cup victories and two Olympic top 10s. Still, even Peterson’s coach admits that the athlete’s summer break is much-needed.

“I’m hoping the break will last more than the summer,” said U.S. freestyle coach Matt Christensen. “I don’t think he’s ready to come back. He had a tough go of things after the Olympics. It seems like he’s getting his personal life together now.”

Peterson caught the world’s attention in February when he was the only American to qualify for the Olympic men’s aerials final in Sauze d’Oulx, Italy. Entering the finals in third place and shooting for gold, Peterson threw his signature move, which fuses three flips and five twists, but touched down with his right hand on the landing, and ended up seventh.

“I learned a lot about myself there,” Peterson now says about his 2006 Olympic experience. “You’re not going to win every race. But nobody can say I didn’t go out there and go for it. That makes me feel good about everything that happened. I’m a lot happier knowing I went for it and ended up in seventh than I would be not going for it and ending up first or second.”

A short time after the Olympic finals, Peterson was asked to leave Sauze d’Oulx after what he called “a misunderstanding” wherein police witnessed him participating in a shoving match with a friend after he’d had a few drinks.

“More than anything it was a blowup by the media,” Peterson said. “I made a mistake. I’m human. Life goes on. I can’t live in regret every single day.”

In March, Peterson returned to the launch pad “at the last minute” at U.S. nationals in Killington, Vermont. There, he landed the Hurricane with near perfection and with it his second gold medal in the event. “I had a great time at nationals,” Peterson said. “I was originally not planning on attending. I decided to go. I landed the Hurricane, I’m pretty excited about that.”

Philanthropic fun
Part of Peterson’s summer has been dedicated to organizing a golf tournament benefit for his friend and fellow Boise skier, Dane Spencer.

Spencer, a member of the U.S. alpine team, broke his neck Feb. 14 after a crash in a NorAm downhill event at Big Mountain, Montana. While back on his feet walking and in the recovery process, Spencer is facing a large stack of medical bills.

“I know what we do is pretty dangerous. Injuries do happen,” Peterson said. “It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s still expensive and a long recovery process. I wanted to do what I could to help ease the pain a little bit and help him get his skis back under him as soon as possible.”

Peterson said speedskater Chad Hedrick has agreed to play in the Oct. 14 tourney in Boise, along with several fellow U.S. skiers.

Peterson himself has been getting deep into his golf game this summer. He said his personal best score to date is 82.

“I definitely got some work ahead of me, but I think my golfing will only make it to the hobby stage,” Peterson said. “Let’s say that Tiger [Woods] has nothing to worry about.”

One aerials teammate who won’t be participating in the golf tournament is Peterson’s roommate, three-time national aerials champion Ryan St. Onge. “I can’t teach him all my tricks,” laughed Peterson, when asked if there was any chance he would teach St. Onge how to golf. “He has been [aerials] training a lot this summer.”

Peterson said his roommate’s dedication to off-season training has only made Peterson happier that he’s decided to take a break this summer. “That makes it even better – sleeping in and watching him go to practice,” Peterson said. “It’s nice to be able to just hang out for once and not have a schedule. When I decide to go back, I’ll go back.”

If Peterson’s goal of Olympic gold still stands, Christensen said that three strong years of preparation will suffice for the Hurricane specialist. “Instead of fighting to come back now, I’d like to see him come back with a whole summer’s worth of training,” Christensen said. “You’re not going to come back strong after taking six months off and a whole summer of not training.”

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