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Original Issue


This is an unsolicited testimonial, as they said in the old days of radio. In the new days of whatever this era is, it might be called an unabashed plug. Whatever, here goes. There's a book out that you should consider: Kurt Thomas on Gymnastics, by Kurt Thomas and Kent Hannon (Simon and Schuster, $19.95 hard-cover, $8.95 in paper). Thomas has a lot of interesting things to say about an exotic sport that many Americans are just beginning to fully appreciate. And he says them exceedingly well.

That's one reason for this plug. Another is that the book's unfortunate title and its rather gritty black-and-white cover photo showing Thomas in a high-V seat, not the most attractive of gymnastic moves, may cause bookstore browsers to mistake it for an instructional. But, no, this is a storybook. The only advice remotely resembling instruction that Thomas offers is a delight: never get so stoked before a world championship that you charge headfirst into a hotel room door. And, don't even think about dating girl gymnasts; most of them are too young, and all of them are too unsexy. Instead, in the chattiest of styles, the two authors simply spin a bunch of gymnastic yarns centered around the remarkable life and times of an extraordinary athlete.

There is Thomas the boy, impossibly tiny and feisty to a fault; Thomas the young man who invented the much-copied Thomas Flair, which might be as much a life-style as a gymnastic maneuver: Thomas the world champion from, of all places, the U.S.; and Thomas the serious youth who wooed and won and married Beth Osting at Indiana State. "I thought he was some high school kid they were showing around," Beth says, looking back at their courtship. "I'm just a farm girl, so I wasn't impressed that he was a gymnast."

Well, she is now, as are so many fans. And you've got to love a young couple who started married life in a house trailer off campus, using the locker rooms at school as their personal bathrooms when the trailer pipes froze up. Both worked long hours, and both clung to the idea that, one day, gymnastic dreams would come true. After all, here is a sport, as Thomas says, that is 100% offense, which is pretty tough going. And here is a young man who has written about it exactly the way it is. Besides, Thomas' dreams didn't come true—the Olympic boycott took care of that—which is another reason this guy and his book rate a plug.