Joey Rempel is a comedian first and a 5-pin bowler second. He says his dad taught him the value of making people laugh as he grew up, and it’s an approach to life he still takes when he can, even while bowling. “I do a lot of funny humour,” Rempel says.
Rempel is 24 and is based in Olds. And he’s accomplished: he’s already competed at a high level, in the 2017 Special Olympics Alberta provincial games, in Medicine Hat, where he won a gold and bronze medal. In May, Rempel will represent Team Alberta at the Special Olympics Bowling Championships in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
He’s preparing. On an average day, Rempel says he divides his time between the job he got after completing college, as “the produce guy” at the local Co-Op grocery store, and his preparations for the bowling competition. He’s throwing the balls twice a week, as well as running on the treadmill and working out.
“The training is the hardest work.”
Friends provided Rempel with his entry point into the sport as well as Special Olympics. They encouraged him to give bowling a try, and Rempel says his decision to try it changed his life. Before he started bowling, he says he knew fewer people and was even “a bit lonely.” After he started, Rempel says, he’s as much interested in the social side of 5-pin as he is the competition.
Rempel was born in Jamaica and until he was three, raised in a home for boys in Kingston, the capital city. He moved to Canada when his parents in Canada adopted him. Rempel says he remembers it all – moving to Canada and “being excited to have a real family.” He now maintains a connection to his first country by visiting with his mom when he has the time. He last visited when he was 18.
“I was just seeing people that raised me, seeing other kids that I knew down there, who are all grown up,” he says. Of course, he was also enjoying his favourite Jamaican staple – jerk chicken.
In the future, Rempel says he hopes to have a family and continue living at his house independently. He says he’s excited to see more of Canada as an athlete competing for Team Alberta. His highest bowling game score is 294, but he’s hoping to top that in Charlottetown.
Can he do it? “Probably, if I focus,” he says. “I like to listen to Christian music and just stop, relax and breathe, and then I can do it.”
Of course, he’ll also crack a joke once he’s able to.