DEEP HEAT URBAN ATHLETES: Kerwin Noemdo
This August will see Kerwin Noemdo flying the South Africa flag as he participates in the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.
For Kerwin, it’s another opportunity to not only represent his country but, hopefully, to bring home a medal in the shotput F46 category for para sport (single arm amputee below the elbow). With several international sporting events behind him, including three World Championships, August will mark a pinnacle moment in Kerwin’s sporting career as one of South Africa’s leading para athletes in the codes of discus and shotput, and the accomplishment of a lifelong dream.
But it has not all been smooth sailing or without its share of disappointments and heartache! “Being a sportsman, especially on a national level, brings many challenges as you try to compete at a high level. You have your injuries, your upsets and your disappointments.”
But it has been Kerwin’s fierceness of spirit and determination that has see him progress from one sporting (and life) milestone and achievement to the next.
Born with a smaller and deformed right hand as a result of the umbilical cord wrapping around it in the womb, Kerwin’s right hand was amputated a few months after birth. However, as traumatic as this may be for many, Kerwin has never viewed or considered himself disabled. Instead, he has gone on to achieve remarkable success even from a young age.
‘Spotted’ at a primary school interhouse athletics meet and invited to try out for para spots, Kerwin went on to take part in his first national championships in 2008 (Gr8) and in 2011 was selected for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Games (IWAS) in his Gr11 year. “To be chosen to represent my country, and to receive the South African kit with my name on it and the Protea emblem, the green and the gold, is a moment I will never forget.”
Having gone on to represent South Africa at the 2013 World Championships (Lyon), and performing at his best level yet, Kerwin firmly believed that his place in the South African team ahead of the 2015 World Championships was a given. And then, he wasn’t chosen. “It was a harrowing disappointment, but also a wakeup call. I had started taking for granted that I would be on the team. And when I didn’t make it, I was devastated.”
But it also caused Kerwin to stop and think about his life, and future options, as it would be another two years of intensive training and sacrifice before he had the opportunity to possibly compete internationally again.
“My faith and my family have always been my greatest motivation and source of strength to keep going. This was no different! And, I also remembered my WHY! Apart from my own sporting goals, I am determined to help change and transform the local para sporting landscape. Close to my heart is always the thought that somewhere out there is a little boy or girl, with a God given talent, ready to grow up and take the para sport world by storm! If my sporting career can in any way inspire them, I cannot give up.”
And it was this exact motivation and mindset that saw Kerwin keep on going a few years later in the face of a painful back injury (disc herniation) only four months shy of the 2019 World Championships. “I was in great shape and really wanted to make my mark. This injury was a big blow, both mentally and emotionally. It brought up all the usual questions of whether I should be putting so much time and effort into my sport and if I could really make a difference in the bigger scheme of things. But the same reasons and motivations kept me focused. Although my results were not the greatest, having placed 10th, I competed and continue to wake up every day committed and determined to fulfil my WHY!”
Three World Championships later (Lyon, 2013; London, 2017 and Dubai, 2019), saw Kerwin awarded the Maties (University of Stellenbosch) Para Sportsman of the year in 2019. “Holding that trophy in my hand, looking at the names of previous recipients, was humbling. I had never competed in a Paralympics but was still considered worthy to take my place amongst seasoned Paralympians! It was such confirmation that I was on the right path, and needed to continue, no matter how many obstacles I may face.”
And now … Tokyo awaits!!
The last two years has seen Kerwin working with a new coach and trying new techniques. In high spirits, great shape and hoping to remain injury free, Kerwin is ready for Tokyo. And the goal ‐ to bring home a medal for the country … and to inspire that little boy or girl who may be watching, so that they too may dare to reach for the stars and live their greatest dream!
Keep Going Kerwin!