Bogdan Bondarenko won the 2013 world high jump title and took silver at the 2015 edition in Beijing, his latest honour from a long list of accolades that includes the 2014 European crown and the 2008 world junior title.
Bondarenko, the 2013 Diamond Trophy winner in the event, competes next at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Rome on Thursday, the fifth stop of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League. Here the 26-year-old Ukrainian star offers his verdict on our first impressions questions.
I don’t know whether it is a sport or not, but dancing. I was eight or nine years old when I took up Ukrainian folk dancing. I competed in this for two or three years. It might have helped my footwork for athletics, although I am not too sure.
First athletics competition
The first competition I ever recall was a mini-decathlon at school, which included the long jump, shot put and 600m. I was aged about 12 at the time and I remember this competition because my spikes fell off about 200m into the 600m and I remember wondering what should I do next. I think I might have won a medal, but I don’t remember for sure.
First athletics competition outside of Ukraine
It was at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Lignano, Italy in 2005. It was a fantastic experience for me as I enjoyed eating pasta, pizza and ice cream. It was my first visit to Italy and it was great to compete in a new competition against new competitors. It was fantastic. I remember I jumped a PB of 2.12m and won the silver medal behind an Italian jumper.
My father, Viktor, and current coach, was my first coach. I have always understood him and he has always understood me. Many sportsmen cannot be coached by their parents, but for me he has been very good.
First media interview
I think it came at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing (Bondarenko took bronze with a PB of 2.26m). It came after the competition, I don’t really remember too many details but I was aged only 16 at the time and I didn’t know what to say during the interview.
Injuries are always the biggest disappointment and I remember in 2009 it was not easy. I had nine competitions during the outdoor season but my best jump was only 2.15m. I had an injury on my take-off foot and I felt constant pain even two or three days after each competition. The injury is a problem I’d struggled with for a long time. At the end of the season, I had an operation on the foot.
First fashion disaster
I think it is when you have to wear a uniform when you first go to school. Before then you are outside playing football in sportswear and/or long pants. Then when you go to school and you have to wear a school jacket and collar, it is not so good.
The first car I had was a big car called a Volga. It is not an easy car to drive. The steering wheel is very stiff, it can hurt the arms and chest and it is hard to park. I was aged 19 and it was the car in which I learned how to drive.
My grandmother used to have a dog called Rex. He was a mixed dog of no particular breed – a dog from the streets. I was close to that dog and I used to take him for walks and play with him for about five or six years.
First thing you learned to cook
I think I learned to cook French soup with the other sportsmen on a training camp when I was aged about 14 or 15. I can’t remember which part of it was French, maybe the cheese, but it contained cheese, potato and sausage. Today, I am not a great cook.
My first download was the soundtrack from the Russian gangster movie Brother. This was a very popular film in Ukraine.
Steve Landells for the IAAF