***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. Joel Dembe became the #1 ranked men’s singles wheelchair tennis player in Canada this year, and has significantly climbed the international rankings defeating several higher ranked players along the way. He won three international singles events, and closed the season winning the National Championships in both singles and doubles. 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: How does it feel to win the wheelchair athlete of the year?
Joel Dembe: Feels great to win an award like this! It’s pretty awesome to be the first male wheelchair tennis athlete to win it. There are lots of other wheelchair athletes in the country (many in basketball and athletics) so to get this honour is a pretty big deal to me!
ONcourt: What has changed?
Joel Dembe: I’m a full time athlete now, so I’m putting in many hours in fitness as well as being on court. This has allowed me to really develop my game, which in turn has translated into success throughout the year. I’m a stronger and more consistant player now.
ONcourt: Whats in your plans next?
Joel Dembe: I’m off to Vancouver for about a month beginning December 28th to train with our national coach, Kai Schrameyer (former world #1). After that, I’m back in Toronto for a training camp. My first tournament starts in February in Mexico.
ONcourt: Did you ever dream of winning that award?
Joel Dembe: Not really. I’m more likely to dream about other things…like baseball!
ONcourt: What is your next big goal (s)?
Joel Dembe: Next big goal is to make the Paralympics next year. Selections will be made at the end of May, so I’ll be playing tournaments non-stop until then.
ONcourt: Anything else you would like to add?
Joel Dembe: Nothing to add except to thank everyone at Toronto Tennis City for the continued support that I received for the past few years!