Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, a silver medal winner at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police in Utah. He was 29 years old.
The Freestyle skier notified police he was going to take his life and said he was in Lambs Canyon, off Interstate 80 between Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah, according to Lt. Justin Hoyal. When the police responded to Peterson's 911 call, officers found him deceased at around 9:30 p.m. local time.
Local news station KSL-TV in Salt Lake City reports that Peterson left a suicide note in his car.
Peterson, who competed in three Olympic Games picked up the nickname "Speedy" at a summer ski camp in Lake Placid, New York, in the mid-90s because coaches claimed he resembled the cartoon character "Speed Racer" when in his big helmet.
He went on to win the 1999 U.S. Junior Championships and take bronze at two World Junior Championships in 2000 and 2001.
As his death was announced, reports surfaced of a life full of extreme highs and devastating lows.
Members of the U.S. Olympic Committee are mourning Peterson's passing.
"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," committee chief executive Scott Blackmun said. "The personal challenges 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."
Peterson had long fought depression, gambling and alcoholism, and once told Men's Journal, "Things have been going wrong for me since the day I was born."
In 1987, Peterson's sister was killed by a drunk driver.
In 2005, Peterson's close friend committed suicide right in front of him, shooting himself in the head as Peterson walked to his door, Sports Illustrated reported in a 2005 article.
In another Sports Illustrated article, this one in 2002, Peterson described being sexually abused as a child growing up in Idaho. He spoke about the experience at a fundraiser for an organization aimed at child abuse prevention, telling a young audience, "If you think you deserved it, I promise it wasn't your fault. I know because I've lived that feeling for a long time."
Things seem to have come to a head when Peterson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol last Friday. KTVB in Boise, Idaho reports that Peterson was driving over 70 mph in a 25 mph zone and failed a sobriety test. He was booked into jail but posted bail a few hours later, the station reports.
Peterson had struggled to stay sober for years and attempted suicide at least once before. He was not planning on competing in the upcoming 2012 ski season and was working towards a business degree at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.