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Jeret Peterson; daring skier won silver in 2010 Olympics

Jaret Peterson practiced his aerials at Deer Valley in 2009. Jaret Peterson practiced his aerials at Deer Valley in 2009. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
By Daniel E. Slotnik
New York Times / July 29, 2011

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NEW YORK - Jeret Peterson, a skier who won a silver medal in freestyle aerials with the US men’s team at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but whose skiing prowess was often overshadowed by his tumultuous personal life, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Monday night in Lambs Canyon, between Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. He was 29.

He died after calling 911 to report his location, police said.

Mr. Peterson - who had homes in Park City and Boise, Idaho - had long struggled with depression and alcoholism. He pleaded not guilty last Friday to drunken driving in Hailey, Idaho.

He was a World Cup champion and Olympic contender in 2005, largely because he was fearless enough to attempt jumps in competition like the extremely difficult maneuver he called the Hurricane. In it, a skier rises as high as 55 feet in the air while performing a triple flip with five 360-degree twists.

The first time Mr. Peterson tried it, he landed face-first and staggered away with a concussion and a shoulder injury.

“It was painful, but aerialists are used to getting injuries like that,’’ he told said. “I knew that I had to keep trying it if I wanted to win a gold medal someday.’’

Peterson attempted the Hurricane in the 2006 Olympics, even though he was in third place after the qualifying rounds and could have won gold with a reasonably safe, flawless jump. He landed the Hurricane, but dragged his right hand and took seventh place.

That night he got into a fight and punched his best friend, Mason Fuller. The US ski team asked him to leave the Olympics.

The incident was one of many off-mountain travails for him.

Mr. Peterson stopped competing in 2008 to work in construction, to quit drinking, and to work through his depression. He won his second World Cup competition after returning for the 2008-09 season and qualified for the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

He stuck the Hurricane on his final jump at Vancouver, but wound up taking the silver medal. He was not overly disappointed.

“For me to land it and ski onto the podium,’’ he said, “I’m stoked.’’

Jeret Peterson was born in Boise.

He leaves his mother, Linda Peterson, and a sister, Erica.

Mr. Peterson won seven World Cup competitions and holds the record for highest two-jump score, at 268.7 points.