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George departs Shuster's curling team

Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com U.S. Olympic curlers Joe Polo (from left), John Landsteiner and John Shuster speak to students at Superior Middle School for the Essentia Health Fit-n-Fun Assembly on Tuesday afternoon. Olympic Nordic skiing announcer Chad Salmela is seated far right. Tyler George, another U.S. Olympian, did not attend and announced his departure from Shuster's team on Tuesday.

U.S. men's Olympic curling champion Tyler George will be stepping away from John Shuster's team this upcoming season and be replaced by another Duluthian in Chris Plys, according to USA Curling.

Plys, a 2010 Olympian, will join Matt Hamilton of McFarland, Wis., John Landsteiner of Duluth and Joe Polo of Duluth on Shuster's team, which shocked the curling world by winning gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea.

"He's a fantastic player and I've seen him develop from the kid who went and won a world junior gold medal to the man, teammate and curler that he's become now," Shuster said of Plys in a news release. "I'm excited to get a chance to play with him. I've seen the work he's put in over the last four years — many times as we practiced late at night on adjacent curling sheets. I look forward to practicing and competing with him."

Plys, 30, was vice skip with teammates Heath McCormick, Korey Dropkin and Tom Howell for two seasons.

"I can't imagine joining a team that's coming off winning an Olympic gold happens all that often," Plys told USA Curling. "It's great that they are at (the Duluth Curling Club), so it will be nice to be able to practice together. Getting to play with Hamilton again is fantastic. I never thought it would be a possibility. I have a lot of respect for John (Shuster) and the player he's become. I never had the chance to play with (Landsteiner) and am looking forward to that as well. I hope I'm able to slide in seamlessly and bring a lot to the team."

George, 35, said he was stepping aside in order to allow his body to recover.

"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 said. "I've played 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.

"There's still a lot I can do on the ambassador side of the game. There's never been a better time to step away from the game and keep the momentum going from the Olympics to help grow the sport."

George was a member of Team Shuster since the 2014-15 season and won three national championship titles and bronze at the 2016 World Men's Championship before being a key part in USA's run to the top of the podium.

"I don't plan on disappearing from the game. I can fill in for the guys whenever they need me," George said.

Plys won World Junior medals in 2008 (gold) and 2009 (bronze) with Hamilton and World University Games gold with Shuster in 2007.

"Chris has a lot of experience playing back-end in big competitions," Olympic men's coach Phill Drobnick said in a news release. "It will be an easy transition to bring him in — he's good friends with the guys already and they've played together before. He'll have the ability to practice with John in Duluth, which will be really helpful. Chris has a lot of abilities that he'll bring in and I'm confident that he'll help us continue this team's success in the future."

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