Toronto, October 15, 2015 – Tennis Canada announced on Thursday that former Paralympian and recent Parapan Am bronze medalist Joel Dembe (Toronto) has decided to retire from wheelchair tennis and focus on other pursuits. The 31-year-old has been one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis athletes for the past several years and was very successful on the international stage, including capturing the country’s first-ever wheelchair tennis medal at the 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games, in men’s doubles alongside longtime partner Philippe Bedard.
“I’ve had a very successful competitive career and I think I’m at the age right now where I want to focus on my post-athletic career,” Dembe said. “The opportunity that I was given through wheelchair tennis to travel the world and compete for my country was a fantastic experience. But for me this is a pretty easy decision. This isn’t the complete end for me in tennis though. There are a lot of exciting opportunities for me to remain active in tennis and I’m really excited about that. Wheelchair tennis is going to have a great future in Canada and if I can in any way support that I will.”
Dembe was the No. 1-ranked men’s player in Canada for three years (2012-2014) and a six-time national champion between singles and doubles. On the international circuit, he won over 25 titles from 2007-2015, including most recently the singles crown at the Kamloops Legacy Games in British Columbia in July.
He also never turned down an opportunity to represent his country. He played for Canada at the last four World Team Cup events, the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and the 2011 Guadalajara and 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games. His last competitive match was his victory in the bronze medal match at his hometown Parapan Am Games.
“Joel has had a fantastic career beginning with representing Canada at the Junior World Team Cup in 2002,” said Janet Petras, director of wheelchair tennis, Tennis Canada. “He has always been an excellent team player and a wonderful ambassador for the sport. We will miss Joel at the high performance level but look forward to continuing to work with him to develop Canadian wheelchair tennis in the next chapter of his career.”
“I consider myself fortunate to have shared the past six years with Joel,” said Bedard, doubles partner of Dembe. “Back in 2009, early in my tennis career, Joel asked me to team up with him in doubles. Curiously, our opposite game styles and personalities made us compatible, and we were a formidable team. We had some great experiences and accomplished so much. He will always be my No. 1 doubles partner.”
While he will no longer be competing full-time on the high performance circuit, Dembe will not be leaving wheelchair tennis behind. He hopes to occasionally play tournaments, and wants to continue assisting to develop and promote the sport. He recently obtained his Tennis Canada instructor certificate and will next work to secure his club pro certificate, with plans to help coach the next generation.
In addition to his coaching, Dembe will be kept busy working at Royal Bank of Canada as part of the RBC Olympians program, where he is focused on marketing and sponsorship.
Check out more photos from Joel’s amazing career in our photo gallery below.