Bogdan Bondarenko has a chance next week to add another title to a résumé that very few in his event can match.
Bondarenko already has world and European high jump titles to his name along with an Olympic bronze medal from 2016. He also amassed seven competitions in 2013 and 2014 in which he jumped 2.40m or higher - a tally only surpassed by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim.
There were some lean years to follow as Bondarenko battled a succession of serious injuries. He missed the entirety of the 2018 campaign due to knee surgery but a tentative return to competition in Shanghai was followed by back-to-back wins on the Diamond League in Rome and Rabat. He also equalled the world lead in the Italian capital with 2.31m.
Bondarenko’s name initially didn’t appear on the Ukrainian team sheet for the European Games in Minsk where Dynamic New Athletics (DNA) makes its debut in the Belarusian capital from 23-28 June but the 29-year-old was only too glad to step in and get involved in the action when Dmytro Demyanyuk was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
“I appreciate all the efforts of global and European Athletics to bring our sport to the new level and make it much more attractive for spectators.
“Athletics should continue to develop in a modern fashion. That is why I’m really excited to try a new and very interesting format of our event as part of DNA in Minsk,” said Bondarenko on a competition which requires jumpers to think carefully about which heights to attempt in order to accrue the most points for their respective countries.
“I’m wondering how the high jump duels will run as we will have only three attempts. I always liked such tactical games so much. It’s how I have competed for many years.”
Bondarenko was especially parsimonious with his number of attempts when he won his two major titles. He won the world title in Moscow on just his fourth jump of the competition - first time clearances at 2.29m and 2.35m before wrapping up the title with a second attempt at 2.41m - before replicating that feat on a wet in-field at the Letzigrund in Zurich the following year.
This format plays to Bondarenko’s strengths and maximum points in the high jump will put the Ukrainian team in an excellent position for The Hunt - a distance medley relay event - which will decide the outcome.
The high jump could provide one of the individual highlights of the inaugural edition of Dynamic New Athletics.
While they won’t meet in the group stages, Bondarenko could face European silver medallist Maksim Nedasekau from Belarus and European bronze medallist Ilya Ivanyuk, who is part of a Russian team made up of neutral athletes, in the latter stages of the contest. Bondarenko will also face opposition for the individual title from his teammate Andriy Protsenko who also has a lifetime best of 2.40m.
Other standout names on a strong Ukrainian team include European long jump silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, European 400m hurdles silver medallist Hanna Ryzhykova in the mixed 4x400m relay and two-time European 800m champion Nataliya Pryshchepa and European indoor and outdoor 800m bronze medallist Olha Lyakhova in the mixed relay.
The qualifying matches take place on Sunday 23 June and DNA reaches its climax with the semifinals on Wednesday 26 June followed by the final on Friday 28 June.