Kurt Thomas, First US Men's Gymnast to Win World Title, Dies at 64

Kurt Thomas of the United States performs during the Men's All-around event on 29th October 1979 during the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, United States.
Tony Duffy/Getty Images

Thomas took home the first US men's world title at the 1978 world championships in France.

Kurt Thomas, the first US male gymnast to win a world championship gold medal, died at the age of 64 on Friday, his family said in a statement. Thomas suffered a stroke on May 24, that was caused by a tear of the basilar artery in the brain stem.

"Yesterday, I lost my universe, my best friend and my soulmate of 24 years. Kurt lived his life to the extreme, and I will be forever honored to be his wife," Beckie Thomas told International Gymnast Magazine.

Thomas became the first US male gymnast to win a world title when he won the floor exercise in the 1978 world championships in Strasbourg, France. He repeated as floor exercise champion at the 1979 world championships in Fort Worth, Texas, and also took home the gold for the horizontal bar and finished with silver medals in the all-around, pommel horse and parallel bars.

Thomas competed as a member of the US team at the 1975 Pan American Games and 1976 Olympics. Thomas turned pro after the United States announced their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He's also known for his starring role in the 1985 movie "Gymkata."

Thomas, born in Miami, attended Indiana State University to compete in gymnastics where he earned 13 All-American honors and led the university to an NCAA team title in 1977. He was elected into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, and inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2003.

-This story was originally published by CBS Sports on June 7