Bogdan Bondarenko did more than just equal the world high jump lead at the Golden Gala in Rome on Thursday (6) night – his performance may have just kept him in the sport.
The Ukrainian star won the IAAF Diamond League with an equal world lead of 2.31m, just a few weeks after a tentative return of 2.19m in Shanghai having been forced to miss all of 2018 due to knee surgery.
And then he revealed just how close he was to making a decision about his future in the sport.
Bondarenko, who won the world title in 2013 and the European title in 2014, said: “I have had incredible, difficult weeks since the Shanghai Diamond League [in May]. It looked like it was time to decide on whether I’ll stay in athletics or it’s time to do something different.
“Nobody knows how much mental and physical work we have done. Only now I can say that I came back after injuries, surgeries and a long period of recovery.
“Today I used my usual tactic to miss some heights. Firstly, because I still feel discomfort in my foot and secondly, because I need to know that I have limited numbers of jumps. It makes me more focused and gives me additional motivation.
“After the win here, I decided to stop because I had already got my main goal and fulfilled the Doha standard. Now I will feel more relaxed and hope that means I’ll jump higher.”
It was a brilliant performance from Bondarenko, 29, and he can now see the IAAF World Championship in Doha, Qatar in a new light.
Bondarenko defeated a stellar line-up in just his second competition of the season including Gianmarco Tamberi, the Italian superstar most of the crowd had come to see. No one knows more of the pain of athletics injury than him.
But as Tamberi showed in Glasgow in March as he celebrated European indoor gold, from despair there can be glory again, after his ankle injury which ruled him out of the Olympics.
Bondarenko started with 2.15m, cleared 2.22m, went over 2.28m at the second attempt before achieving 2.31m without any trouble to equal the world lead. The bar was raised to 2.33m which after a first failure, he then decided to retire. His work was complete.
Tamberi was back in fourth on count back as four men finished on 2.28m – Syria’s Majd Eddin Ghazal, Belarusian Maksim Nedasekau, Tamberi and Authorised Neutral Athlete Ilya Ivanyuk.
But this was Bondarenko’s night – as he showed he has a future in the sport again.