VANCOUVER, Feb 25 (Reuters) -- American Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson banished the demons of a turbulent life by landing his challenging Hurricane jump to earn Olympic silver in the men's aerials on Thursday.
Four years ago Peterson was expelled from the Winter Games after getting into a fight the night he finished seventh in the freestyle aerials in Turin.
On a crisp night at Cypress, it was Peterson's time to celebrate after vaulting from fifth place to the podium behind friend Alexei Grishin of Belarus after doing the competition's hardest jump, three head-over-heels flips and five twists.
"I'm so happy. This is the best day of my life," Peterson told reporters.
"It's my reward for fighting through everything," he said, his words catching in his throat as tears welled in his eyes.
There have been many troubled times in Peterson's life.
When he was five, his sister was killed by a drunk driver and he was sexually abused as a child.
Eight months before the Turin Games, Peterson's roommate shot himself dead in front of the skier, who has himself been treated over the years for depression.
"I know a lot of people go through things in their life. I just want them to realise they can overcome anything," the sturdily-built skier said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel. Mine was silver and I love it."
Peterson, 28, said he felt strangely tranquil before launching into the Hurricane.
"I was abnormally calm. I don't know why I was so calm. I had been all week. I've been having fun, hanging out with my family and friends. I couldn't have painted this picture any better."
The Idaho native knew he had won a medal when he landed, laughing with glee as he waited for his score to be posted.
"I'm patting myself on the back and thanking every single person who's ever done something for me. I couldn't have done it without all of them."
Peterson described the result as a personal redemption.
"This is my medal for everything that I've overcome. I'm ecstatic," he said.
The Vancouver Olympics and the medals race both finished in spectacular fashion for North Americans. The United States won 37 medals and Canada finished with 14 gold medals. Both are the best of these games and part of the greatest hauls ever at a Winter Olympics.
With one more perfect run down sliding's most difficult track, Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 to the Olympic gold medal in four-man bobsledding on Saturday, ending a 62-year drought for the Americans in the event.