Kurt Thomas died on Friday, after having a severe stroke on May 24

By Eric Todisco
June 07, 2020 10:35 AM
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Kurt Thomas, the first American male gymnast to win a gold medal at the world championship, has died. He was 64.

Thomas' family told the International Gymnastic Magazine that he died on Friday. Prior to his death, Thomas suffered a tear of the basilar artery in the brain stem, which caused him to have a severe stroke on May 24.

“Yesterday I lost my universe, my best friend and my soul mate of twenty-four years.  Kurt lived his life to the extreme, and I will be forever honored to be his wife,” wife Beckie Thomas told the outlet.

"I am completely devastated to hear this,” said Bart Conner, an Olympic teammate. "Kurt was a fierce rival, who went on to become a cherished friend.  My heart is breaking for his wife Beckie, his children, Hunter, Kassidy and Kurt as well as the entire gymnastics community, who lost a true pioneer today.”

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At the 1978 world championships in Strasbourg, France, Kurt used his signature skill, a dismount called the “Thomas Salto," on the floor exercise to win the first world championship gold medal for the U.S. men’s gymnastics program. While competing in the 1979 worlds, he won an additional six medals.

He also competed at the 1975 Pan American Games, as well as the 1976 Olympics. After the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics, he retired from the sport.

After stepping away from gymnastics, he worked as a TV analyst for ABC Sports during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He also starred in the 1985 martial arts film Gymkata.

In 2003, Kurt was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

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Kurt and Beckie, who wed in 1996, operated the Kurt Thomas Gymnastics Training Center in Frisco, Texas, which has hosted USAG-sanctioned Kurt Thomas International Invitational gymnastics meet annually since 2003.

Kurt is survived by Beckie, their children Kassidy and Hunter, and his son from a previous marriage, singer Kurt Travis.