Tyler George

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Tyler George steps away from curling after Olympic gold medal

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The U.S. Olympic champion men’s curling team will not look the same next season. It may have thrown its final stone together.

Tyler George, the vice skip for John Shuster‘s rink, said he is stepping away from elite competitive curling for “a little bit,” according to USA Curling.

“It’s been a long road of a long season, and when you play as much as we have, it takes a lot of time and wear and tear on the body,” George, a 35-year-old liquor store manager whose first bed was a roasting pan at the Duluth Curling Club in Minnesota, said in a press release. “I’ve played down for 20 straight years with one minor break. It just seems like the right time to step away for a little bit and recharge the battery, let my body heal. Maybe I’ll come back stronger down the road – only time will tell.

“I don’t plan on disappearing from the game. I can fill in for the guys whenever they need me.”

George will be replaced on Shuster’s team next season by Chris Plys, known best to Olympic followers as the alternate who briefly replaced a struggling Shuster as skip at the 2010 Vancouver Games. The team also has its PyeongChang alternate, Joe Polo, who will miss the first half of next season due to shoulder surgery.

George, who led his own rinks at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Trials, joined Shuster’s new team of curlers rejected from USA Curling’s high performance program after Shuster’s 2-7 finish at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Together, Shuster, George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner finished third, fourth and fifth at the world championships before breaking through in PyeongChang. On the brink of elimination, they won their last five games to take the first U.S. Olympic curling title.

George was magnificent in PyeongChang, where The New York Times noticed he competed in ragged, eight-year-old Skechers and bought him new shoes. He led the U.S. quartet by shooting 88 percent against Sweden in the final.

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MORE: U.S. men’s curling team’s dream run falls short at worlds

U.S. curler throws first pitch to wrong catcher (video)

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The U.S. men’s curling team had an inspiring run to gold in PyeongChang. Collectively, their ceremonial first pitches at the Minnesota Twins’ home opener on Thursday were not as impressive.

The five team members lined up in a row from right of the pitcher’s mound to its left. In order: alternate Joe Polo, skip John Shuster, vice skip Tyler George, second Matt Hamilton and lead John Landsteiner.

Polo was fine. He threw a strike. Now, for everyone else:

Shuster airmailed his, but it looked worse because his catcher had to duck out of the way of George’s errant throw that went to the wrong Twins player. Hamilton didn’t risk bodily harm, rolling his ball along the grass like a curling stone. Landsteiner threw a floater.

All team members are from Minnesota except Hamilton, who is from Wisconsin. Shuster attended Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

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MORE: Top moments from Team USA’s run to curling gold