The Utah Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake has confirmed that Olympic medal-winning US skier Jeret Peterson was found dead from gunshot wounds in a remote canyon between Salt Lake City and Park City in Lambs Canyon on Monday.
The police suspect Peterson, one of the most colorful sportsmen in the country, to have committed suicide. Peterson called 911 before shooting himself, police said.
The 29-year-old aerial skier had overgrown the fringe sport he practiced and had become hugely popular following his silver medal in 2010. But it emerged that he fell prey to alcoholism and depression, which seem to have nipped his colorful life and promising career. Nicknamed 'Speedy', Peterson was known best for his signature Hurricane jump.
He received the 'Key to the City' from Boise Mayor after winning 2010 Winter Olympics silver.
According to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, the nickname 'Speedy' was given to him at a summer camp in Lake Placid in the '90s. He was called 'Speedy' since he looked like cartoon character "Speed Racer" while donning his ski gear.
He was arrested on Friday for speeding and drunken driving. He also reportedly failed the tests held afterward to assess his level of sobriety. He had pleaded not guilty and his attorney had prepared not guilty plea even as news of his death arrived.
The AP reported that Peterson's troubled life as a child had left deep scars on his personality. He had admitted that childhood experiences like sexual abuse and the death of a 5-year-old sister in a traffic accident involving a drunken driver had made him prone to suicidal tendencies. According to NYT, he had contemplated suicide after losing $550,000 in blackjack earnings.
In his first Olympic appearance, at Salt Lake City in 2002, he rose to finish in the top ten. In the 2006 Turin games, his participation was mired in controversies, though he was strongly expected to win a medal. He was sent away from the Games following a drunken altercation during a post-match celebration. "This type of conduct is irresponsible and will not be tolerated," U.S. Olympic official Jim McCarthy had said then. "Like every athlete, Jeret had an opportunity to represent himself, his sport, and his country in a positive manner. He chose to do otherwise, and because of his unacceptable actions, his Olympic experience is ending early," McCarthy added.
He was excited to stage a strong come back in 2010 and win a medal. After winning the silver medal he said: “This medal represents me overcoming everything ... It’s my gift to myself and I'm extremely happy with the way things are turning out in my life. .. There is good that comes from everything and you just have to find it."
"Not only was he athletically gifted, he was charismatically gifted," said Carma Burnett, a long-time well-wisher and associate, according to KTVB.com. "I can't think of another Olympian that probably gave the U.S. such a warm and fuzzy feeling. He was all that. He is a treasure, and he made all of us proud. He made Idaho proud. He made the U.S. proud."
"This is a sad day for Boise and for all of us who admired Speedy Peterson's accomplishments, both on the slopes and in his life," Boise Mayor David H. Bieter said.