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Jeret Peterson ( 1981 - )  Category ( Sports_Figures ) [suggest a correction]

Jeret PetersonJeret Peterson is an American Olympic athlete and medalist in the aerial category of skiing. He won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Sometimes greatness emerges from tragic circumstances, and Peterson's childhood was filled with challenges, which the discipline of skiing helped him to overcome. He was born the youngest of three children. His mother was a nurse; his father a lab technician. According to his mother, Peterson was sexually abused when he was a toddler. Peterson has no memory of such events, but as he recalled a childhood and adolescence of chaos, he stated that whether or not the allegations are true, they may as well have been.

Shortly after the alleged abuse, his parents became embroiled in a messy divorce. More tragedy quickly followed. When Peterson was five his older half-sister, Kim, age seventeen and shortly to graduate from high school, was killed in a car accident. Peterson coped with his losses and confusion by acting out. He engaged in reckless behavior, such as setting a yard on fire, selling firecrackers at school, and making other dangerous forms of mischief.

But something good came out of his elementary years: he learned about skiing. He quickly realized skiing was a much more efficient and entertaining way to burn off his energy and angst. Recognized right away as a natural talent, one of his early coaches bestowed the nickname "Speedy" on Peterson, a moniker that remains to this day.

When Peterson was eleven he wanted to apply to the ski camp in Lake Placid, New York, but he was too young. His mother lied about his age on the application, and thus attended camp, anyway. By the time he was seventeen he was the junior national ariels champion, and went on to serve as an alternate for the 2002 Salt Lake City games.

After the 2002 Olympics, Peterson decided to enroll in college. He has expressed that at the time he longed to "be a kid." In light of his early childhood experiences and his years bent on professional skiing, he was ready to try and recapture some of the years he had lost. However, like many new college students, Peterson spent more time partying than studying. Burnout and depression quickly followed. He returned to athletic training, but this time not even skiing could bring him out of his depression. Eventually he was able to pull out of it and resume training and competing.

Then, in 2005, tragedy struck again. After purchasing a home of his own and taking time and care to put his personal stamp on it, a close friend committed suicide in the home, in front of Peterson, who could do nothing to help. When he left his home that night, he never returned there to live. A combination of painful memories drove Peterson to alcoholism and high-stakes gambling. Despite his troubles, he continued to train and compete. Having qualified for the Olympics in Turin, he turned clean and sober, but became involved in a drunken incident and returned to the United States. He realized it was time for some soul-searching.

He was convinced that skiing grounded him, helped him stay focused and feel secure. Over the next few years he continued to have ups and downs with depression and problems with alcohol. However, he qualified for the 2010 Olympics and walked away with silver. In 2009 he reflected: “I’ve had extreme highs and lows. I’ve had abuse. I had a roommate commit suicide in front of me. I had an alcohol problem. But I’ve also had an amazing life with lots of great adventures. I’ve gone to the Olympics twice. I have an amazing family. I’ve learned that just because one thing happens to you, it doesn’t create your entire life.”

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