PORTLAND, Maine — Saturday was one of those Maine winter days where it was colder inside a hockey rink than outside in the snow. Members of the Pine Tree Curling Club spent the afternoon doing what they do best, with an appearance by an Olympian.
With the Bejing Winter Olympics less than two months away, the sport of curling will return to the international stage. Every four years curling club memberships increase around the country, according to those who know the game best.
“A lot of that is because of [Team USA's] success in the 2018 [Olympic] games and seeing it grow in places where curling wasn’t a factor before and that people have accepted it and have a passion for it the same way we’ve always had in the Midwest is really fulfilling for us," 2018 Olympic gold medalist Tyler George said.
George has now dedicated his time to support the effort of growing the game. After leaving the podium four years ago, George left the sport and retired from competition. He spent his Saturday at the William B. Troubh Ice Arena to offer tips to new and even experienced curlers.
Ben Duffy is a board member of the club. He said membership is around 50 to100 curlers despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting numbers. Luckily, Duffy said, folks have found a safe way to participate by wearing masks and keeping their distance from each other on the ice.
“It’s really intriguing to play, and it’s a great athletic experience, and it’s a great social experience too," Duffy added.
Duffy said Saturday's event was a way to encourage more people in the Portland area to try curling. The Belfast Curling Club also has events and competitions for people in that area of the state.
Curling events will be held nearly every day during the Olympics in February. George said while anybody can participate, "It's a lot like golf: It takes a lifetime to master it."
He added that what people don't see on television is the hours of practice and training these athletes need to do to prepare for the Olympics.
While he won't be in Beijing, George said he'll be supporting his team from home, yelling at the TV. This year, the gold medalist said both the United State's men's and women's teams have a chance to win a medal.
For more information, you can visit their website at https://pinetreecurlingclub.com/