Maturing Further: The Oleksiy Sereda Story

Photo: Simone Castrovillari

By Noelle Theodoulou

Despite his young age, Ukrainian Olympic diver Oleksiy Sereda, 17, has garnered significant attention and admiration from the diving community thanks to his impressive performances and remarkable achievements.

In 2019, he became an instant sensation when he dethroned Tom Daley as the youngest-ever diver to win gold at the European Championships. Aged 13 years & 7 months, Sereda was three months younger than Daley when he broke his record (set in 2008) as the youngest ever European champion.

Since that spectacular moment, Sereda has been forced to train and compete through tumultuous times, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Sereda and his teammates took refuge in Aachen, Germany, after the war broke out to prepare for the 2022 LEN European Championships in Rome, Italy. One might have thought that these training conditions could unnerve or distress Sereda, but he proved otherwise.

Competing in his specialty 10m platform events, Sereda won a gold medal in the individual with a significant gap over runner-up British diver Noah Williams. This was Sereda’s second individual title despite being 16 years of age. He also earned two silvers in the synchronized and mixed synchronized events. 

When Sereda competed as a young boy against senior divers for the first few times in 2019, his dives’ Degree of Difficulty (DD) did not exceed 3.3. Sereda’s DDs were overall lower than his rivals, who did not exceed 3.7, highlighting the prodigy’s youth and inexperience. His marvellous execution compensated for the lower DD to take gold, but he saw the discrepancy between himself and his competitors. 

Without any international competitions in 2020 due to the pandemic, Sereda had to perform much more challenging dives under overwhelming pressure at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games and LEN European Aquatics Championships in 2021. Though Sereda did not medal at his first Olympics, he did finish the summer season with a gold medal in the mixed synchronization platform with partner Kseniia Bailo at the Europeans.

Sereda matched his overall DD in his dives showcased in 2021 but executed with fewer errors at the 2022 European Championships. A few months prior, at the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Sereda lost to his British rival Williams, ranking sixth. However, Sereda did not leave Budapest empty-handed.

With his new partner, Sofiia Lyskun, in the mixed synchro platform event, Sereda claimed silver and was shocked by the result. He revealed that the duo had begun practicing together shortly before Worlds. The little time they had training as partners was trivial to Sereda, who thrives in the synchro events because he is accompanied by a teammate who makes the competition more enjoyable and less nerve-racking. The two divers grabbed their second silver of the summer at the European Championships.

Since his first gold medal at the 2019 LEN European Diving Championships in Kyiv, where he triumphed in front of his home crowd, Sereda has demonstrated his fearlessness. Following that crowning moment, he has welcomed the responsibility to represent Ukraine to the best of his ability. In the context of the ongoing war, Sereda has said that he wants to motivate his compatriot soldiers and citizens with his performances on an international stage.

Behind British Olympic gold medallist and veteran Jack Laugher, Sereda earned the second-most votes for the 2022 LEN Awards, with 24.09% to Laugher’s 36.21% in the male diving category, an astonishing feat for a 17-year-old athlete. 

Sereda’s exceptional performances and impressive collection of medals undoubtedly prove that he is a rising star in the diving world and a source of inspiration for aspiring young divers. Fans eagerly anticipate his future accomplishments.