Kurt Thomas, the first U.S. male to win a gold medal at the Gymnastic World Championships, died Friday after suffering a stroke. He was 64.
His stroke on May 24 was caused by a tear in the basilar artery in his brain stem, according to the Associated Press.
“Yesterday I lost my universe, my best friend and my soul mate of 24 years. Kurt lived his life to the extreme, and I will be forever honored to be his wife,” his wife Beckie Thomas told the International Gymnast Magazine.
Throughout his gymnastic career, Thomas won eight world medals, including three gold medals, and created two signature moves called the “Thomas Flair” and the “Thomas Salto.”
At the 1978 Gymnastic World Championships in Strasboug, France, Thomas won the first gold medal for the U.S. men’s gymnastic program. He also competed with the U.S. teams at the 1975 Pan American Games and the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
When the 1980 Olympic boycott was announced, Thomas decided to go pro and later went on to star in the 1985 movie “Gymkata.” The film received mostly negative reviews but has since developed a cult following. Thomas played Jonathon Cabot, an Olympic gymnast sent by the government to participate in a deadly martial arts competition. He uses “gymkata,” a combination of gymnastics and karate, to defeat terrorists from a fictional country and rescue a princess.
Thomas also worked as an ABC Sports analyst during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2003.