U.S. Aerialist Sent Packing After Fight

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 25, 2006

TURIN, Italy, Feb. 24 -- Freestyle aerialist Jeret "Speedy" Peterson was sent home early from the Winter Games after a late-night altercation in which he reportedly punched a friend in the mouth, bloodying his lip and loosening a tooth.

Peterson, 24, who finished seventh in Thursday's freestyle aerials competition despite being in medal contention late, was expected to be on an early flight Sunday to his home in Boise, Idaho.

Peterson was attending a post-race U.S. ski team party at Sauze d'Oulx, the site of the competition, when the alleged altercation occurred early Friday morning.

According to a news report citing Italian police records, Peterson hit his friend after the friend attempted to intervene in an argument between Peterson and an Internet reporter. Police were called to the scene but decided not to press charges, the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a statement.

The USOC announced late Friday that Peterson, who had a shot at the Olympic gold medal but lost it after failing to land his signature "Hurricane" jump, had agreed to leave the Olympic Village and return home.

The news marred a rare good day for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Federation, which claimed just its second Alpine medal of the Olympics when Julia Mancuso, 21, won the gold in Friday's slalom. The only freestyle medal came from moguls star Toby Dawson, who claimed a bronze.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Federation President and CEO Bill Marolt, reached on his cell phone, declined to comment.

"This type of conduct is irresponsible and will not be tolerated," said Jim McCarthy, USOC chef de mission, in a statement. "Like every athlete, Jeret had an opportunity to represent himself, his sport and his country in a positive manner. He chose to do otherwise, and because of his unacceptable actions, his Olympic experience is ending early."

Peterson, the No. 1 ranked aerialist in the world last year, received attention for his skills and his rough life story at these Games. Sexually abused as a child, Peterson witnessed the suicide of a close friend last year. When he was 5, his sister was killed by a drunk driver.

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