- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"I don't know. He's awfully tired and would probably like to get going."
"How do you know so much? I saw him talking to you during the meet. Who are you, his mother or something?"
"No. I'm his wife."
Thomas' star quality was also quickly recognized by Paul Brandon, whose Hollywood clients include actor Bill Bixby and who was one of the first to contact Thomas when he arrived in Los Angeles to help promote the USGF meet.
"Kurt, I've seen what you can do in gymnastics and, believe me, you have all the tools to become great," said Brandon over the telephone. "I'm calling you now because I screwed up in not getting to Bruce Jenner early. I don't want to make the same mistake twice."
Back home in Terre Haute, Ind., with the last reminders of his bachelor days—a Datsun 240Z and a waterbed—recently sold so that he and his wife Beth could buy an $8,000 mobile home, newlywed Kurt Thomas doesn't live like a media star. And he seems unlikely to become overimpressed with his status, as long as Beth continues to point out that he is so small she can wear his shirts and jeans.
As to physique, it should be noted that the boom in U.S. gymnastics has led to a significant reduction in the body size of American gymnasts. The first six finishers at the USGFs all fit the "ideal" proportions of the Japanese, who are still the spiritual leaders of the men's sport, having been winners of every Olympic team championship since 1960.
Thomas also benefits from his extremely long arms and relatively short legs. On the horse, for example, this enables him to work higher than most gymnasts, with less worry about getting his legs tangled in the pommels as he swings through his routine. This added height—"amplitude," as the judges refer to it—is what makes his "Thomas Flair" so exciting. When gymnasts all over the world began trying to imitate it (with limited success thus far), Thomas updated the Flair with a tricky move to the other side of the horse, where he executes another Flair for the folks on the opposite side of the arena.
"Kurt has an actor's demeanor and a good stage feel for the sport," says Conner. "He can handle a greater degree of difficulty than the rest of us right now, and he really knows how to show off what he does best. He has an explosive style, and when he gets hot, as he did at the American Cup, look out."
Thomas racks up points for originality and virtuosity with the Flair, which he has now incorporated into his floor exercise, but he also scores high because of the crisp, nervy manner in which he attacks every trick in all of the categories. In the minds of the judges, he is not tied to any one aspect of gymnastics, as is Russia's world champion Nikolai Andrianov, whose superiority is in the strength moves.