Eric Bergoust, an Olympic and world champion who dominated freestyle aerials skiing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, announced his retirement Monday after 16 years.
Among his many nicknames was "Weird Eric" for his insistence on trying new things with equipment, training and his jumps. A four-time Olympian, Bergoust ends his career with a gold medal at the Nagano Olympics and the World Championships in 1999 and the World Cup championship in 2001 and 2002.
"He did it all," U.S. freestyle coach Jeff Wintersteen said. "It's been fun being around him because he was such a professional, such a hard worker, always looking to do more than the coaches wanted him to do."
At one point during his stretch of dominance, Bergoust claimed the three highest scores in the history of aerials.
The Missoula skier gained almost as much acclaim, however, in the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City. A prohibitive favorite to win the gold heading into the game, he was pushed hard by Czech skier Ales Valenta, who scored high on a then-revolutionary, quintuple-twisting jump.
In an attempt to beat Valenta, Bergoust went for broke on his jump instead of playing it safe and he fell, finishing 12th of 12 finalists. Afterward, he said he was "glad I didn't go out there and go conservative and finish fourth. I wanted to get the gold or last, and I got last."
The quote was later cited by President Bush, among others, as one that embodied the Olympic spirit.
Bergoust came back for a final shot at this year's Olympics at age 36 with far more modest expectations. He failed to qualify for finals, however, part of a disappointing effort for the American freestyle team in Sauze d'Oulx.
Bergoust will get married in July and may get into coaching.