Tyler George is sitting at home, watching his former teammates compete at the world championship. It’s tough going, but he made the tough choice to leave.
“Yeah, it’s strange to think that 2018 was three years ago,” George said. “It feels like yesterday and forever ago at the same time. So much has happened, but it’s gone by so fast.”
George stepped away from third duties on USA’s Team John Shuster shortly after winning the Olympic gold medal in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I’ve had a hard time processing what happened in Korea, along with everything since, including the pandemic … to the point that it seems like someone else’s life,” he said. “I’m not sure it will ever sink in completely, if it hasn’t by this point.”
The 38-year-old liquor store owner from Duluth, MN had competed in three previous world championships, winning bronze for the U.S. in 2016, before making his first Olympic appearance in PyeongChang.
Things did not look good early on. Mired at 2-3 late in the round robin, Shuster’s lads faced an uphill climb to even make the playoffs. That climb to eventual glory is well-documented, with Shuster recently associating a technology rescue mission to the saga.
But Tyler George didn’t leave the sport entirely, no sir. He promptly hit the road as a curling ambassador, urging and exhorting the virtues of the Roaring Game in America, making multiple appearances in 2018, ’19 and even January of 2020 before the pandemic stopped him cold.
Some 25 of those appearances were made in tandem with America’s official sport governing body, USA Curling.
“I’m so pumped to be able to be an ambassador for the sport, and see it grow the way it has,” George said. “And that’s not just in the number of registered club members in the U.S. or the new clubs and dedicated facilities. The real joy is in seeing new curlers understand why we love it as much as we do, the sense of belonging, the way the curling community is one big family at all levels.
“If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘it’s a lot harder than it looks’ I’d be financing dedicated facilities myself.”
Tyler gets the question a lot—does he miss the game? Is he going to make a comeback?
“That comes and goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve felt so fulfilled with what I’ve been doing off the ice for the sport, my desire to compete hasn’t risen high enough to lace them up again. But I miss the people, my teammates, being on the road with the guys … that never goes away.
“Watching them at the worlds is when I get the itch the most. As much as I try to stay out of the way, like outside of some supportive texts, those guys will always be my team, my brothers. And yes, watching is infinitely harder than playing. Armchair skipping doesn’t suit me real well.”
COVID-19 has definitely put a hold on his promotion of the sport, but George has his first gig in over a year tentatively scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend in Austin, Texas … a city that is launching its first dedicated curling facility in September.
“I can’t wait to get on the road again and get the momentum rolling into the Beijing Games,” he said. “I’m hoping all American curlers and stakeholders, even you media guys—I hope everyone joins me in bringing our wonderful game into the spotlight over the next year and beyond.
“And my door is always open to those who want to join in the effort.”