Silver Medal Skier Shoots Himself After DWI Charge

By Will Godfrey 07/27/11

Jeret "Speedy" Pieterson's demons caught up with a life of extreme highs and lows.

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Jeret "Speedy" Pieterson, 29, a freestyle skier who took silver for the US at last year's Winter Olympics, killed himself in a remote Utah canyon on Monday night. The previous Friday he had been cited for a DWI in Hailey, Idaho, after driving at over 70mph in a 25mph zone, according to police. He had pleaded not guilty. Pieterson's troubled life before and after his against-the-odds success in Vancouver was a combination of thrill-seeking and tragedy. Sexually abused as a child growing up in Idaho, he lost his 5-year-old sister to a drunk driving accident and had longstanding problems with alcohol and depression. In 2005 he witnessed a close friend committing suicide by shooting himself in the head, while in 2006 he was sent home from the Olympics in Turin for getting involved in a fight after a party. He also won $550,000 playing blackjack in Las Vegas one night, a sum he largely lost through bad investments or gave away. "Speedy," as he was known, was admired for his innovations and his mastery of the "Hurricane" a daredevil triple-twisting ski ramp manoeuver. On Monday he called police to tell them he was going to take his own life and informed them of his whereabouts, in Lambs Canyon, between Salt Lake City and Park City. He left a suicide note and shot himself. It was a tragic end for a young man who reacted to his medal last February with tears of joy: "I've really changed things around in the last three and a half years. This is my medal for everything I've overcome, and I'm ecstatic."

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.