The Park Record editorial, July 30-August 2, 2011
July 29, 2011
We ask a lot of our sports heroes. We ask them to go where we fear to tread, to defy gravity, to hurtle into the unknown. We also ask them to be model citizens and, perhaps unfairly, hold them up as examples when they are not.
Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, the daredevil aerials skier who brought glory to his team and the country during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and who regularly bedazzled hometown crowds at Deer Valley and the Utah Olympic Park, personified the razor-sharp edge upon which those athletes dance.
Peterson died Monday as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, so close and yet so far from the mountains he loved and the fans who loved him.
In the wake of his suicide, family, teammates and friends are left wondering whether they missed a call for help, whether there was something they could have done or said to alleviate this talented athlete’s burden.
In retrospect, there were signs that Peterson’s demons were getting the upper hand — most recently a DUI arrest Idaho. But in the world of extreme sports, Peterson’s bravado did not raise significant red flags. Over the years, The Park Record has regularly reported on the escapades of nationally and internationally known sports stars. It seems we expect risk-takers to live colorful lives, on and off the race course.
But, if there is a lesson to be gained from Peterson’s death, it is that we owe those athletes our support when their risk taking (for our entertainment) crosses the line into self destruction.
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Peterson’s life, like those of many artists, musicians and athletic phenoms on the international stage, was filled with astonishing victories and crushing losses. In his world, the difference between being a hero and a loser hinged on a moment in the air. Sadly, his self esteem and peace of mind was just as fleeting. For Speedy, depression and substance abuse were as familiar as the cheering crowds.
So what can we do?
As a community that has helped to raise the performance bar in numerous winter sports, we need to also lead the way in providing psychological support for those athletes whose feats challenge our imagination, not to mention our nerve. We need to be firm in holding them accountable for risk-taking behavior outside the arena, but also to understand their mindset is focused on challenge and attracting attention.
Rest in peace, Speedy. We wish we could have eased your pain and hope that your legacy will remind us to take better care of those who try to fly in your footsteps.