12 Aug 2018

Russia's Bondar returns in style to European championships

Russian diver Aleksandr Bondar has put aside retirement plans after returning in style to the European championships following a four-year break to win two gold medals at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.

On Sunday, though, thoughts of retirement were distant. Bondar impressed in the 10m platform, diving with precision to the title and recording the only perfect 10.00s across every event in the competition, winning three of them for his back dive with three-and-a-half somersaults.

Even when Bondar scored a huge 104.40 points for this spectacular dive, he remained remarkably cool and took a shower as if nothing had happened. "I tried not to think about that I just had done a good dive, because there were still three more dives to come and I could not relax," the 24-year-old said.

He certainly did not relax and went on to build on his lead to win clearly, having claimed the 10m synchronised platform title with partner Viktor Minibaev (RUS) earlier in the week.

Things were not always good for Bondar. He was an up-and-coming young diver from Ukraine back in 2013 when he took the European 10m platform title for the first time. In 2014, however, he finished only eighth in this event and began considering his future in the sport. "There was this breaking point in my career, as I think happens to each athlete - this moment when you are fed up with everything and you just want to stop," he said.

By the end of 2014, he had left Ukraine and moved to Russia, married his Russian girlfriend and received encouragement from the president of the Russian Diving Federation, Alexei  Vlasenko (RUS), to continue competing.

Bondar changed his citizenship in 2015 and had to sit out two years before he was able to represent Russia in competition. He missed the European championships in 2017 because of injury but won a silver medal in the men's 10m synchronised platform at the world championships in 2017, again with Minibaev. 

"Each medal has a meaning for me," Bondar said. "Overall I am just pleased that it went well. After such a long break there are some nerves in the competition. I competed at the world championships [in 2017], but the European championships are something different. I wanted to win."