***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 and Canada’s #1 ranked wheelchair tennis athlete in October 2011. Joel is currently in training for the London 2012 Paralympics. If you wish to help Joel reach his goals, you can make a tax deductible donation at www.joeldembe.ca***
ONcourt: Joel, tell us what it means to you to be Canadian Nationals Singles and Doubles Champion.
Joel Dembe: Winning the Canadian Nationals Singles and Doubles titles are proof that hard work really does pay off! I now realize that the sacrifices that I’ve made throughout the year to get to this point were totally worth it. I’ll be able able to call myself a National Champion for the rest of my life.
ONcourt: What do you feel was the most contributing factor to your championship? Was it technical, tactical, maybe psychological?
Joel Dembe: Mostly psychological. In year’s past, I was not mentally strong enough to beat opponents, especially when it came to crucial points. Have to give credit to Stephanie Nihon who gave me tools to calm my brain and develop a routine that would work for me. I would usually dig myself into a deep hole in a match, which would be very hard for me to crawl out of, and now that just doesn’t happen anymore. Having the ability to calm my thoughts throughout the match allows my tennis ability to really come through.
Also, I would have to say the amount of time I’ve spent on court with Ben Armstrong along with several hitting partners has contributed as well, in addition to bulking up physically with the help of Jonathan Skelcher.
Finally, the night before the final I went to bed at 7:30pm. My body was extra-rested and energized when it came time for me to play.
ONcourt: Did you celebrate your win in any special way?
Joel Dembe: I didn’t celebrate whatsoever the night I won. I ended up doing laundry and cleaning my room at a fellow player’s house, whom I had stayed with during the Nationals. We also had training camp on the Monday & Tuesday, so I needed to give myself some much needed rest. I’ll hopefully have a chance to celebrate after the Para-Pan Am Games next month in Mexico.
ONcourt: Congratulations on making it to London 2012. How will you adjust your training to get ready for that?
Joel Dembe: Haven’t made it to London 2012, although I’m certainly well on my way to getting there.
ONcourt: What do you most look forward to during the Olympics in 2012?
Joel Dembe: Again, don’t want to comment on this just yet as I haven’t officially made it yet. I will know by next Spring.
ONcourt: Do you know much about the competition you will face during the Olympics and do you feel that the Canadian wheelchair level is world-level?
Joel Dembe: I know a lot about the competition that I will face, and certainly Canada as a country is well behind the curve. Both Europe and Asia completely dominate the sport, with North/South America having only 4-5 players in the top 50. Canada, along with the United States, is currently is trying to develop the next wave of talent that can compete at the same level as the Europeans, and hopefully our country will get there over the next few years.