An intelligent, readable guide to a sport long ignored in this country--brought to life by its focus on our finest male gymnast. Building around the story of Kurt Thomas and how he came to win a gold medal in the 1978 World Gymnastic Championships, the authors explain: the basics of gymnastics; how to watch a meet (where many events may go on simultaneously); how routines are scored; problems U.S. amateur athletes face; and the international scene (politics is a heavy presence). They concentrate on men's gymnastics; not only are the events, style, and scoring different from women's, but also--they point out--women reach their peak at a much earlier age, and hence (they speculate) seem to feel no fear. There are vivid descriptions of the six events that make up men's gymnastic competition: floor exercise, pommel horse (Thomas' specialty), rings, vault, parallel bars, and the high bar (""high bar routines make you think of the old childhood fear of sailing over the top of the swing set""). Other prominent gymnasts appear here--American Bart Conner; the foremost Russian, Andrianov; the entire Japanese team--but best of all is the picture we get of Kurt Thomas, who came out of a wildly informal program at Miami Central High (the coach knew almost less than the team, ideas for practice came from magazines) to gain prominence in a sport where ""you can't be successful just by being an animal."" Entertaining and informative, with a special personal touch and lots of exciting photos.