Well-known Matie athlete Kerwin Noemdo's dreams of becoming a Paralympian athlete with two university degrees became a reality when he received his second qualification at Stellenbosch University's (SU) April graduation ceremonies.
Noemdo – the Maties Parasport Sportsman of 2019 who represented South Africa at the Tokyo Paralympic Games in September last year – was awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in HIV/Aids Management from SU's Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management. In 2017, he received a BSc degree in Conservation Ecology.
“It's a nice and a proud feeling to know that I have successfully completed something I am committed to. I've always wanted to be a Paralympian and have two degrees, which happened for me. It is something I am proud of," said Noemdo.
He was born on 12 September 1994 with a smaller and deformed right hand due to the umbilical cord wrapping around it in the womb. His right hand was amputated a few months after birth. He has achieved remarkable success from a young age, participating in rugby and later in athletics.
In 2021, he registered for the postgraduate diploma, a flagship online programme of the Centre for HIV/Aids Management. The academic workload and his sporting obligations quickly put his self-discipline and perseverance to the test. “It was quite difficult," Noemdo recalled.
Apart from many assignments that took up most of his time, he also had to make time for his own shot-put exercise programme with his coach, coaching at two schools and giving private coaching lessons.
“I had to work on my assignments after hours, during weekends or late at night. But it's the life I chose, and I did it," said Noemdo, adding that he returned from Tokyo earlier to complete one of his assignments.
From Bellville to Stellenbosch
Hailing from Bellville, Noemdo moved to Stellenbosch in 2011 and joined Paul Roos Gymnasium. At the time, he was a good rugby player and para-athlete who had already participated in his first national athletics championship in 2008.
In the year he moved to Stellenbosch, he was selected for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Games held in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. “It was a moment I will never forget – to represent my country and receive the green and gold South African kit with my name and the Protea emblem," Noemdo recalled.
After that, he represented South Africa at several other international sporting events, including the Tokyo Paralympic Games, where he participated as one of South Africa's leading para-athletes in the codes of discus and shot-put, placing fourth in shot-put.
“The Tokyo Games was my biggest sporting achievement so far. I ended just one place from a medal position, missing it by 35 cm," said Noemdo.
He is motivated to improve on his fourth position and will now put all his time and energy into training and coaching. “I am going full steam ahead for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. It is two and a half years away. And if everything goes well, I can also participate in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles."
Coaching comes naturally
Noemdo does not have any immediate career plans related to his qualifications.
"I will focus on my sport and keep coaching at two schools and privately. Coaching comes naturally to me and runs in the family. My grandfather was part of the coaching team of the first Springbok Sevens team, and my uncle coached provincial rugby teams. I have an analytical and a coaching brain," Noemdo said.
He added that one of the pleasures of coaching is when your athletes develop and improve their performance. “I really enjoy that. I like helping other athletes to achieve their goals and seeing the improvement and the growth – not only as athletes but also as people."
Going forward, Noemdo will carry with him the life lessons he has learned over the years in Stellenbosch and the lifelong friends he made in school and university. “To be a Matie student shaped me as a person. I hope that I can one day inspire and shape other individuals and student-athletes or just people in general in every aspect of life," he said.
Photographer: Stefan Els