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Eric Peterson, Published November 12 2013

George siblings are natural born curlers

Fargo - In a sense, Courtney George and Tyler George were destined to become great curlers.

The siblings’ parents managed the curling club in Duluth, Minn., before and around the time both were born.

“By the time I was born it was pretty much assumed I would be curling as well,” Courtney said with a laugh. “I think we were just kind of born into that community.”

The sister and brother combination has ascended to the top level of the sport. Courtney is the skip of a women’s team and Tyler is the skip of a men’s team at the U.S. Olympic Teams Trials for Curling at Scheels Arena. They are hoping their time in Fargo leads them to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The women’s winner in Fargo will represent the U.S. in Sochi. The men’s winner would still have to go to an Olympic Qualifying Event in Germany in December to try to earn a spot in the Winter Olympics.

“We kind have an unspoken agreement. If one of us doesn’t win, the other one needs to,” said Tyler, who is 31 years old. “When Court wins, I feel like I do and vice versa. Nobody supports each other more than we do. The next best thing for me to winning would be to watch Court win.”

Courtney’s team won two games Tuesday to move into a tie atop the women’s standings, along with two other teams at 2-1, in double round-robin play. Tyler capped his day with a 7-6 victory in an extra end over Pete Fenson’s team. Tyler’s team is tied for second in the men’s standings at 3-2 along with Team Fenson.

“That was huge,” Courtney said of her team’s two wins. “We’re right in the top again. We knew that if we lost this game we were going to have to scratch and scrap the rest of the way. We have to do that anyway.”

Tom George, Courtney’s and Tyler’s father, also coaches Courtney’s team. Tom’s wife, Chris, is in Fargo as a spectator. Tom remembers Tyler and Courtney, 27, hanging around the curling soon after both were born.

“One of Ty’s first beds was a baking pan in the back room which we put him in to sleep,” Tom said with a smile.

Tom said both his kids started sliding around age five. They really started to grasp the sport, as far as consistently making shots and reading the ice, around age 11. The strong curling community in Duluth helped both Courtney and Tyler develop into top curlers, Tom said.

Tom used a golf analogy to illustrate his point.

“If you start golfing, you are probably not going to get a chance to golf with Tiger Woods,” Tom said.

In contrast, Courtney and Tyler got the chance to curl with national champions and Olympians in Duluth as they were developing as curlers.

“If you golfed with Tiger Woods every day, that would probably make you a better golfer,” Tom said.

When they were just starting out curling, Courtney and Tyler remember having to learn the slide before they started throwing stones.

“For an entire year, my dad didn’t let me throw the rocks. He just made me slide,” said Courtney, who now lives in St. Paul.

“Neither one of us had a rock in our hand for probably a thousand slides when we started out,” Tyler added. “By the time you put that stabilizing force in your hand, you got the delivery down already. It’s a lot easier.”

Both Courtney and Tyler have already represented the United States on a world stage. Courtney was an Olympian for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. She was an alternate on the women’s curling team that represented the U.S. Tyler played with Pete Fenson at the 2010 World Men’s Curling Championship, which were also in Italy.

Both Courtney and Tyler got the chance to watch the other compete at those two major events.

“We both got to do the hang out in Italy and not have to curl thing, watching the other one, which is fantastic,” Tyler said. “Italy is a good place to go when you don’t have to play.”

Courtney is serving as team skip for the first time at a U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“It’s coolest when one of us is competing and the other can watch,” Courtney said. “In these situations it’s tough because I can’t share it as much with him as I would like to because we’re doing our own thing.”

The siblings have considered what it would be like if both were able to make it to Sochi.

“That would be so cool, definitely a thought that’s crossed both of our minds,” Courtney said. “We’ve got two horses in the race so that’s nice. We hope at least one of us will go, but if both did that would just be the ultimate. That would be off the charts cool.”

Tom said watching his kids compete at the highest level can be exhilarating and draining at the same time.

“One of the worst things in sports, when you get to the highest levels, second is no good anymore,” Tom said. “So a lot of the fun is out of it when you play and entire season and you end up second. … The only real place is first.”

Tom tries to take the wins and losses in stride.

“The nerves are all up to my wife,” Tom said. “The most competitive person in the family is my wife and she internalizes the first shot right to the last shot of the game.”

Tom still cherishes the memories of watching Courtney and Tyler in their development into world class curlers.

“Those young victories, you beat a good team for the very first time, those are tremendous victories,” Tom said with a smile.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com