Joel Cassells, former World Rowing Champion, calls time on the GB rowing squad
Joel Cassells, former World and European lightweight Rowing Champion, has announced he is leaving the GB Senior squad with immediate effect. The decision came after a tough trails weekend which saw Cassells, a sweep oarsman, struggling to compete in a single scull at the high level he demanded of himself.
Cassells’s decision was not only based on the results from GB Trials but also on the decision last year by FISA to drop the LM4- as an Olympic boat class. The IOC called for parity across all events and the LM4- went in favour of the W4- leaving just one boat, the LM2x. “The decision by FISA to take the lightweight four out of the Olympic roster was the beginning of a series of events which meant my dream of going to the Olympics was taken away,” Cassells told WEROW. “It became a very big challenge to try and go for it in the sculling at trials, but I can walk away saying that I have done my best.”
Joel Cassells at GB Rowing, Caversham in 2017
The lightweight GB Trials were held in single sculls with hot competition for the two Olympic seats. On the day, fellow Brookes rower, Jamie Copus put in an outstanding performance with his 2017 doubles partner, Sam Mottram of Leander Club coming second. Cassells was a way off the pace in the side by side finals. “There are two seats to go for and if you’re not at the standard, then you can’t justify being there anymore,” said Cassells.
Cassells, 23, obtained some of his degree Oxford Brookes University and is presently in his second year studying for an undergraduate degree in politics, philosophy and economics now with the Open University. Ultimately he wants to pursue a career in politics and hopes to start with a position as a parliamentary assistant. “I did some work experience at Stormont when I was younger and I think that’s what sparked my interest. I love the atmosphere in Westminster and the fast pace of politics”
In the meantime, Cassells is re-joining the main Brookes squad at Wallingford and will hope to get a seat in a crew for Henley. As a lightweight, he maintains his weight at 70kg but naturally tends to settle at 75kg. “This past week I have enjoyed not having to be a lightweight! I will have to start being a little more sensible with my diet but I will enjoy putting on a few more kilos of useful weight. As the years go on it becomes harder to keep the weight down as my metabolism slows but I have never had any trouble making weight”
Joel Cassells sculling at GB Trials, Caversham in 2018
This is not the first time Cassells has experienced change in his rowing career. Last year he said goodbye to long-time pairs partner Sam Scrimgeour, who left the GB team after the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota. “From when I entered the squad in the 2015 season, my senior career took off with Sam by chance really. I had gone into the lightweight four for a brief stint then went off to do U23’s in the LM4x. Then by chance, I came back into the pair for the 2015 World Rowing Championships in France. It clicked within a very short period of time, and also with Rob Morgan our coach, and we went to Aiguebelette and won gold, it was phenomenal”.
In 2016 Cassells and Scrimgeour just missed out on the LM4- but undeterred then poured their energy into the LM2-, winning three World Cup Golds, a European Rowing Championship gold and bronze at the World Rowing Championships. “Back then we didn’t know we were going to lose the LM4- and I felt like my whole career was stepping in the right direction. I had a fantastic partnership with Sam and I learned a lot from him.” Scrimgeour went to Rio as a spare and immediately flew back to compete in the European Championships leaving many to wonder whether, under different circumstances, the gold might have been attainable.
Cassells exit has been managed by Mel Chowns of the English Institute of Sport who provides performance lifestyle advice to the athletes at Caversham. “I haven’t been left in no man’s land, I am really lucky that UK Sport helps you to get your plans together in order to transition rather than having to make an abrupt change. We are pretty regimented, almost institutionalised as athletes so you can get lost once you’re out of that system. But I’m headed back to Brookes to row so that will give me a fairly similar training intensity and regime”
Cassells is the most senior of the current GB Rowing lightweight squad and his experience and calm demeanour will certainly be missed. As for a highlight in his GB career? “Most definitely the World Championship gold in 2015 with Sam. Going to that event completely unaware of whether we would come first or last. We came very open-minded and by the semi-final, we felt could do it. The final was such a magical row, I didn’t even look at the StrokeCoach. We just had such free flow and effortless speed, it just happened. It was a magical regatta, a magical event – one that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
You can watch Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour winning their World Championship gold in 2015 on the World Rowing website.