History of the Pommel Flair

In honour of the late, great Kurt Thomas who made the Flair famous, I’m reposting some history.

Phillippe Delasalle from Canada was often credited for introducing the “Flair” after he showed it in international competition in Russia 1975.  Soviets called it Delasalle for decades following.

Kurt Thomas unveiled his “Thomas Flair” variation (Flair Czechkehre Flair) in 1976.

Hardy Fink:

Naming of an element usually requires performance at a World Championship or Olympic Games. Both Philippe and Kurt performed it on the day of optional competition in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Canada did not have a full team so it competed early on that day. For that reason, Philippe performed it many hours before Kurt.

All of the Eastern bloc and many other countries referred to it as the Delesalle for many years. But the name Thomas flair eventually won the “name recognition” war and that is how it was entered in the Code of Points several years later.

Most agree it was Ted Marcy and others from Hinsdale High School in Chicago who invented the Flair.

Donny Gardiner who was on the Hinsdale team back then recalls “the guys” playing around with different ideas to transfer from circles into pendulum swings. It was a ‘scissor break’ that evolved into the Flair over time.

(Donny recalls that Marcy was the first they knew of to reach vertical on scissors, as well.)

Todd Gardiner, Donny’s brother, recalls that Ted did the Marcy flair in High School competition which consisted of just the split into scissor break. By college (1972) Ted was probably training full flairs, but Todd’s not sure when (exactly) he first competed them.  One competitor from those years cannot recall Marcy ever competing a full flair.

However, at the Midwest Open in either ’74 or ’75 Ted competed against Hoffman & Slezak from Hinsdale, among other greats, and fell very early in the routine. As Midwest didn’t allow for a remount, Ted smiled, saluted, then got back up and threw a fun routine including an exaggerated full Marcy Flair and other wild stuff. The crowd went nuts.

Click PLAY or watch some Collegiate Championships 1976 on YouTube.  A number of the competitors use variations of scissor break and Flair.  Ted competed for Stanford.

Joel Ulloa who ended up competing for Cal State Fullerton was working on Flair in the ’70s too. You might recall the IG magazine photo sequence of the ‘Ulloa Break’.

So who invented the Flair?

I’m guessing the first full Flair was most likely done first at Hinsdale by 1972 or 1973. In training.  At the time Ted Marcy was the best of the guys playing around with it. Hoffman and Slezak may have competed a full Flair even earlier in local competitions.

Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

6 thoughts on “History of the Pommel Flair”

  1. I never saw ted do a complete flair in competition. Phillip performed the flair in the 10am session at the Montreal Olympics. Kurt’s was in the 2pm session.

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  2. I saw Ted Marcy perform a flair in 1972 and immediately informed John Herb who coached Philippe Delesalle at the time. Naming of an element usually requires performance at a World Championship or Olympic Games. Both Philippe and Kurt performed it on the day of optional competition in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Canada did not have a full team so it competed early on that day. For that reason, Philippe performed it many hours before Kurt. All of the Eastern bloc and many other countries referred to it as the Delesalle for many years. But the name Thomas flair eventually won the “name recognition” war and that is how it was entered in the Code of Points several years later.

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  3. I don’t believe mr fink saw ted do a FULL flair in 1972. A half flair to back scissor, yes. Not a Phillip or Kurt flair.

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  4. A lot of guys in the 70s performed early breaks to single leg work as you have documented. The full flair that Philip and kurt performed was different because it revolutionized pommel horse. Maybe more then any single skill in gymnastics history. They both deserve the credit but kurt thomas took it to the next level

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