|— Gymnast —|
|Born||August 23, 1978|
|Discipline||Men's artistic gymnastics|
Alexei Bondarenko (born August 23, 1978, in Kostanay, Kazakhstan) is a gymnast who competed for Russia from 1996 to 2004. His coach was Valery Alfosov and he trained at Dynamo Moscow. He started gymnastics in 1987 at age 9.
Bondarenko was considered a talented gymnast but unpredictable, due to his inconsistent performances in competitions.
Bondarenko made his international debut in the 1996 European Junior Championships at 17 where he won the gold medal in the all-around. The next year, in 1996, he ranked sixth in the all-around in the Russian Championships but he was not selected to compete in the 1996 Olympics. In the 1997 Russian Championships, he ranked second in the all-around and first in the pommel horse, still rings and vault, although Alexei Nemov was not in this competition. He then qualified to the World Championships team where he helped Russia obtain a bronze in the all-around, and where he won a silver in the all-around, and ranked fifth in the vault finals.
In the 1998 Goodwill Games, Bondarenko won another silver in the all-around, and the pommel horse and still rings, and a bronze on floor exercise. The 1998 European Championships in St. Petersburg was a successful competition for Bondarenko where he won the gold in the all-around and on parallel bars, a silver on pommel horse and a bronze on floor exercise, as well as a silver on the team competition.
In the 1999 World Championships, Bondarenko contributed to the silver medal in the team competition for Russia. He won a silver on parallel bars, and was 10th in the all around and 8th on floor exercise.
Bondarenko was fourth in the all-around at the 2000 European Championships leading into the 2000 Olympics and was considered a good contender for several medals in the Olympics. During the 2000 Olympic Games, Bondarenko was part of the silver medal Russian men's team. He was seventh in the all-around and won a silver on vault.
Bondarenko won a silver in the all-around in the 2000 American Cup and the 2000 World Stars in Moscow. He was seventh in the all-around in the 2001 Brisbane Goodwill Games, and won a bronze medal on floor exercise, and was a finalist on pommel horse, still rings, vault and parallel bars. During the World Championships in 2001, however, Bondarenko was 18th in the all-around and did not medal in the other event finals where he qualified, on floor exercise and on the vault. Bondarenko won the all-around in the 2004 Russian Cup in Moscow leading into the Olympics.
Bondarenko entered the 2004 Olympics with a fledgling Russian men's team that did not have the depth of the 1996 gold-medal-winning team. However, Bondarenko was one of the anchors of the team together with Alexei Nemov. The Russian men's team ranked sixth on the team competition and Bondarenko qualified for the vault finals.
Injury on the 2004 Olympic Vault Finals
The men's vault finals of the 2004 Olympics was held on August 23, 2004, Bondarenko's 26th birthday. He entered the competition as the reigning Olympic silver medalist and was expected to be a medal contender.
As the first competitor on the vault, Bondarenko fell on his landing after the first vault, a Tsukahara double pike, and was clearly in pain after the attempt. On his second vault, a double front half twist, he landed on his side. Afterwards, he was in severe pain and was seen receiving medical treatment for what appeared to be serious injuries. He was carried off the stadium on a stretcher.
NBC was criticized for not giving any coverage of Bondarenko's injury, and not even broadcasting Bondarenko's vaults. Instead of beginning the broadcast with Bondarenko's attempts, NBC went on to broadcast China's Li Xiaopeng's attempts and then showing the attempts of the three eventual medalists, who were Latvia's Yevgeny Sapronenko (the silver medalist), Spain's Gervasio Deferr (the reigning 2000 Olympic gold medalist and the eventual gold medalist of the competition, and Romania's Marian Drăgulescu (the bronze medalist). It was said that not only did NBC not show the Russian's two falls, viewers were not given any kind of indication that they had happened, and that at no point did the network's gymnastics commentators or studio hosts say that Bondarenko had been injured and taken to the hospital.
2005 to present
Bondarenko recovered from his back injury and continued to compete. He was sixth in the Russian Championships on 2005 and was seventh on vault in the DTB World Cup in Stuttgart. He was sixth in the Russian Cup in the same year. In the 2007 Russian Cup, he won silver on vault and gold on high bar. Bondarenko was a member of the 2006 men's team in the World Championships. Bondarenko tried out for the 2008 Olympic team, but, like Yelena Zamolodchikova for the women, turned in "subpar" performances at the Olympic Trials and did not make the cut.