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Tyler George steps away from curling after Olympic gold medal

Curling - Winter Olympics Day 9

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 18: Tyler George of USA screams instructions to a team member during the Curling round robin session 7 on day nine of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Curling Centre on February 18, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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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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