U.S. aerialist Jeret (Speedy) Peterson (left) is a daredevil among daredevils. In a sport that requires an athlete to ski straight down a mountainside onto a steep takeoff ramp, shoot five stories into the air while rapidly flipping and twisting and then land smoothly, Peterson compounds his task. He regularly launches the Hurricane. It is a signature trick that includes five twists and three somersaults and has the highest degree of difficulty in the sport. What made Peterson's last jump in the Olympic men's final at Cypress Mountain especially compelling to watch, however, was that the 28-year-old from Boise hadn't successfully landed a Hurricane in competition since 2007. He needed it now; he was sitting in fifth place. And so Peterson went for it, flying through the night air, coming down a bit heavy on his left ski but staying upright. Point total: 128.62, the highest single-jump score of the event. It wasn't enough to win—30-year-old Alexei Grishin (above) of Belarus claimed his country's first-ever Winter Olympic gold with two flawlessly landed jumps—but Peterson was thrilled nonetheless. Few athletes have endured such a difficult few years. Before the Turin Games (at which he finished seventh) Peterson saw his best friend commit suicide. Fighting depression since then, he says he twice tried to take his own life and struggled with alcohol abuse and other problems. Yet for a man who once won $550,000 in a single night of gambling in Las Vegas, Peterson was quick to rank his Olympic performance as even more satisfying. "I've never been this happy in my entire life," he said. "This is the best day in my entire life."