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Olympic skier who commits suicide had a life of highs and lows

Published: Tuesday, July 26 2011 11:26 p.m. MDT

LAMBS CANYON, Salt Lake County — Olympic silver medalist and fan favorite Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson was found dead Monday night in Utah's Lambs Canyon from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Unified Police Department said Peterson was found around 9:30 p.m. in Lambs Canyon. Police say he'd made a call to 911 prior to the shooting and left a suicide note in his car.

In his 29 years, Peterson lived through more agony and ecstasy than most of us would in an entire lifetime. He's made a career out of bouncing back up when his demons knocked him down...until now.

"Not only did we lose a great athlete, but we lost a great friend in Jeret ‘Speedy' Peterson — someone that was very, very special to all of us here," said Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the U.S. Ski Team.

From childhood, Peterson battled. He was sexually abused, lost his 5-year-old sister to a drunk driver, and was constantly dogged by problems of alcohol abuse and depression. Then the ultimate blow came in 2005 when he watch his friend commit suicide.

"I lost a buddy this year to an addiction, and it was tough," Peterson said, while fighting back the tears during a 2005 interview.

More drama came in 2006. A drunk and disorderly Peterson was kicked out of the Torino Olympics

But Peterson's own recovery from addiction was trumpeted by his out-of-body performance in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It was there he nailed his record-setting "hurricane jump" to win the silver medal.

"Everything that I've done in my life that's — you know, I've had so much guilt for, and all the things that have happened to me that just kicked me down — I finally feel like I've gotten pulled up," he said, following that win. "I'm on top. I'm on top of the world right now."

"Hurricane" may be an apt metaphor for the life Peterson lived — a rotation of storms with periods of blissful calm.

Park City friend Ted Ligety, an Olympic gold medalist, said in a tweet Tuesday: "I will miss my friend and teammate Jeret ‘Speedy' Peterson. So sad."

Peterson was arrested Friday for speeding and driving while intoxicated in Hailey, Idaho, and according to KTVB.com in Boise, his attorney filed paperwork on his behalf earlier Tuesday pleading not guilty to both crimes.

Tuesday night, Peterson's family said they are grateful for the incredible support he received. 

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