In 1976, Bonk was 25 years old and at the peak of his powers. He set all three of his world records—two in the clean and jerk and one in total—between 1975 and '76. His most significant competition wins came in the 1976 and 1979 European Championships. As the 1980 Olympics approached, Bonk prepared again to meet his biggest rival, the Russian super heavyweight Vasily Alekseyev. Alekseyev took gold ahead of Bonk at both the 1972 and '76 Olympics, but in 1980 he had a terrible tournament. The door would have been open for Bonk to finally beat Alekseyev at the Moscow Games—except that Bonk wasn't there. The East German Olympic committee didn't nominate him.