Written by: Joel Dembe
***Joel has always been in love with sports. He was born with a benign tumour that was removed near his spine, which developed into a partial-paralysis causing both a scoliosis and partial nerve damage to his body. As a child, Joel was very active and competed in a variety of sports including track and field, sledge hockey, challenger baseball, and golf. It wasn’t until he was introduced to Frank Peter Jr., one of the country’s top wheelchair tennis players, that he truly found his passion. Wheelchair tennis combined both speed, power, and eye-hand coordination. A sport that demanded that you be good at so many different things all at once.
After a few years, Joel rose to the top of Canada’s junior rankings. At age 19, he made Canada’s National Development. As part of the development team, he was introduced to some of Canada’s top coaches, trainers and players, and continued to progress as a tennis player while attending the Sports Management program at the Brock University. In recent years, he has been training with the ACE Tennis coaches who helped him to finally become the number one ranked Canadian in the ITF Men’s Wheelchair tennis singles ranking in July 2011. Next up, a full schedule for the rest of the summer, the Para Pan American games in the fall (Guadalahara, Mex.) and to secure a place in the 2012 London Paralympic games! If you wish to help Joel reach his goals, you can make a tax deductible donation at www.joeldembe.ca***
I got back home last night after spending time journeying across the western portion of Canada. I had some really nice wins over the past few weeks, culminating in my 3rd tournament win of the year in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. I had to play my normal doubles partner, Philippe Bedard in the final. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous – I seem to always get that way when playing a fellow countryman. After winning the first 4 games of the set, the umpire made (what I thought) was a brutal, brutal call. It threw me off my game and I started to get tight. Luckily, I pulled off a straight set victory at 6-3, 7-5. I played consistent, high percentage tennis and ultimately that helped me win the the match. I really hope to improve my serves for the next tournament. I’ll be working hard this week to get it back to being a weapon.
In the previous two tournaments (Grand Rapids and Vancouver) I had tough quarter-final losses to two worthy opponents – Steve Welch from USA and Takuya Miki from Japan. Both players really took advantage of my second serve and were able to hit with authority more consistently than I was.
After my final tournament in Port Coquitlam, I drove with Corey Blatchford, my doubles partner for the past few tournaments from Vancouver to Saskatoon. If we hadn’t slept, we could have made the trip in 16 hours. Ultimately, we eventually had to rest outside a gas station in his car as all motels had no vacancies. It was probably the worst sleep of my life. On the bright side, I ventured through Glacier and Banff National Park, and saw some amazing sights throughout BC and Alberta. I spent a few days in Saskatoon relaxing/practicing before coming home last night.
This week, I’ll be conducting a few demos at the Rogers Cup at York University in addition to training with one of our National coaches, Kai Schrameyer.