The new Loughborough University Business Studies student was diagnosed with fibular hemimelia at birth and spent the first 10 years of his life in a wheelchair, navigating high school bullies and a different kind of childhood.
The condition, which affects the development of the legs below the knees, didn’t stop the South African native having dreams and aspirations, but another bump in the road soon followed. Agreeing with medical advice in 2012, he and his family took the tough decision to amputate his legs.
No one could have predicted what would happen next.
Inspired by watching the London Paralympic Games, Ntando soon found his calling in athletics and remarkably, just four years later, the then 14-year-old made his Paralympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro.
Not only did he become South Africa’s youngest-ever Paralympian, but he also achieved the unthinkable by winning an incredible silver medal in the 200m T42.
“I was actually going to an appointment for my legs, and they called me in for a fun run,” Ntando told Loughborough Sport.
“I left all the kids behind [on the track] and one of the guys said: “I think you have potential, why don’t you try athletics?”. The athletics journey started there and since then; we’ve been creating history.
“I was selected for Rio with no expectations as no one knew who I was. I got the silver medal, but I was very angry with myself as I wanted the gold – I think it motivated me to go back home and work even harder”.
Fast forward five years and the delayed Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2021 brought even more success for Ntando. In a Games heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, he once again delivered on the global stage to win an astonishing double gold in both the 200m T61 and Long Jump T63 – the latter in a new world record distance (7.17m).
“Those two gold medals came with a lot of hard work,” Ntando explained.
“You look at Tokyo and it’s impacted by covid and it’s difficult to train. You have a training plan and a schedule and the next thing it’s just shut down.
“We then had to pick ourselves up and to get two gold medals at the Paralympics took a lot of motivation, self-discipline, and also hard work…it was one of the highlights in my athletics career.”
With the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games less than a year away, Ntando will balance his training for the long jump title defence alongside studying Business Studies at Loughborough University.
“Paris is a funny one as we won’t have the 200m event there. Now we’re only focusing on the long jump so we’re changing a lot of things and putting in the time and work and I’m trying to enjoy myself.
“The reason I came to Loughborough is for the opportunities and to get to work with the best coaches in the world in the best facilities. Going into Paris I have big goals and I think I can go a bit further, and Loughborough is the place to do that.”
During his time in the East Midlands, Ntando will work closely with Loughborough University’s Head of Para Sport, Alasdair Donaldson.
“Myself and the wider University are absolutely thrilled to see Ntando here,” he said.
“He’s a world-class athlete and to see him choose to further his studies and take his sport forward here is a brilliant thing for us to be part of. Not only do we have a world-renowned sporting offer, where we support all athletes, but we also have a great academic offer.
“We’re really trying to push things forward in terms of Para sport and we want an integrated environment where everyone can train together and be respected the same.
“My hope for Ntando is that he’s able to achieve his dreams here.”
During his time at Loughborough, Ntando will work under the stewardship of Joe McDonnell, the University’s Head of Para Athletics Sprints and Recruitment.
“I’ve known Ntando for a quite a while and when I learned that he was interested in Loughborough I was over the moon,” Joe said.
“He’s looked at us from the opportunity to develop him as a person because your career as a sports person is very short and you must look beyond that. It’s great for the University that someone of Ntando’s talent sees Loughborough as his next step as a sports person.
“With Ntando coming in, it shows the talent in the group here. The number one thing is that Ntando gets to be as good as he can be and has a great experience here.”
For more information on Loughborough’s Para Sport offer visit https://www.lboro.ac.uk/sport/para-sport/ and for more information on Loughborough Business School visit https://www.lboro.ac.uk/schools/business-school/