07/27/2011 at 07:00 AM EDT
Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, the American freestyle skier who famously battled demons throughout his life but rose above them to win silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 29.
Peterson shot himself in the head outside his car off Interstate 80 in Lambs Canyon, Utah, east of Salt Lake City, on Monday night, reports the Salt Lake Tribune
. He left a suicide note and had called 911 before shooting himself to tell police of his location.
He had long fought depression, gambling and alcoholism, and once told Men's Journal,
"Things have been going wrong for me since the day I was born."
Peterson, who had struggled to stay sober for years and had attempted suicide at least once before, was arrested in Idaho last week and charged with misdemeanor drunk driving.
The skiing community reacted with shock to his death. A true innovator in the sport, Peterson landed the silver in Vancouver with a daring five-twist and three-flip aerial maneuver called the "Hurricane."
"The entire Olympic family is heartbroken to hear the news of Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson's untimely passing," said U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun. "I know Speedy's friends and family were incredibly proud of his effort in Vancouver, and his achievements were an inspiration to people all over the world."
Blackmun added: "The personal challenges that Speedy has battled are familiar to all of us, and on behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee, I'd like to offer my sympathy to Speedy's family and friends. Today is a sad day."
Peterson had not planned on competing in the upcoming 2012 ski season and had been working toward a business degree at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.
With additional reporting by LORENZO BENET