Kurt Bilteaux Thomas (born March 29, 1956 in Miami, Florida), died June 5, 2020, was an American Olympic gymnast.
1 Early life
3 Signature moves
4 Personal life
5 In popular culture
7 External links
Thomas competed for Indiana State University; where he was a five-time NCAA champion, winning the parallel bars and all-around in 1977 and parallel bars, horizontal bar and the all-around in 1979. Thomas helped lead the men's gymnastics to the 1977 National Championship.
He earned All-America honors 13 times in his career and was the James E. Sullivan award winner in 1979, as well as the 1979 Nissen Award (the "Heisman" of men's gymnastics) awardee. He was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2010.
Thomas became a member of the US Olympic team at the 1976 Summer Olympics. In 1978, Thomas was the first American male gymnast to win a gold medal in floor exercise in a world championship. In 1979 he became the first gymnast to receive the James E. Sullivan Award for the best amateur athlete in the US and earned six medals at the World Championships, including gold on the horizontal bar and floor exercise, and silver in the all-around, parallel bars, and pommel horse. Coming off an impressive 1979 World Championship (6 medals), he was a favorite to win a gold medal at the 1980 Summer Olympics; however, the games were boycotted by the United States government.
Since the Olympics' strict amateurism rules at the time would have forced him to forgo many lucrative financial opportunities, Thomas elected not to attempt to compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics. With professionals allowed to compete by the time of the 1992 Summer Olympics, Thomas attempted a comeback. Despite his advanced age for a gymnast, he was able to make it to the 1992 United States Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials, but his performance there fell short of what was needed to make the team.
Two gymnastic moves were named for him, the Thomas Flair, a pommel horse move, and the Thomas salto, his signature skill on floor exercise, a tucked 1.5 backward salto with 1.5 twist into a roll out (a difficult and dangerous skill even by today's standards). The Thomas Flair on pommel horse, and then also performed on floor, was developed over years by several Pommel Horse specialists. However, in gymnastics, new moves are named in the gymnastics rule book after the gymnast who is the first to perform the move in international competition.
In 1996, Thomas married Rebecca Jones, a dancer who also choreographs gymnastic routines. They had two children together, Kassidy and Hunter Thomas. Thomas also had a child from a previous marriage, singer Kurt Travis.
In 2003, Thomas was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
He and his wife Rebecca operated the Kurt Thomas Gymnastics Training Center in Frisco, Texas. His gym has hosted the USAG-sanctioned Kurt Thomas International Invitational gymnastics meet annually since 2003.
In popular culture
Thomas starred in the 1985 film Gymkata as an athlete sent by the US government to compete in a deadly competition called The Game. The film earned Thomas a Razzie Award nomination for Worst New Star and was poorly received by critics, but has developed somewhat of a cult following due to its unintentional comedy. Thomas also starred in the syndicated TV series True Confessions and has worked as a commentator for ABC Sports and ESPN.
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