Athlete in the Spotlight: Joel Cassells


GB Rowing Team news caught up recently with Joel Cassells in the latest of our series of spotlight features on squad members. We’ll be adding others regularly so look out for future editions. Tweet us via @GBRowingTeam if there is an athlete you would like to see featured.

Joel Cassells

Birthdate: 15/06/1994
Height: 181cm
Weight: 72kg
Hometown: Coleraine
Education: Millburn Primary School, Coleraine Academical Institution, Oxford Brookes University
Began rowing in: 2006
Clubs (past and present): Bann RC, Oxford Brookes University Boat Club
Original coach(es): Seamus Reynolds

Think of Coleraine and rowing and you think of the heroics of Alan Campbell, Peter Chambers and Richard Chambers at London 2012.

Now Joel Cassells is bidding to emulate his celebrated Northern Ireland compatriots by helping the GB Rowing Team to more medals at Olympic Games and World Championships.

The 20-year-old is one of the rising stars of British lightweight rowing, having won silver medals at the last two U23 World Championships.

He was part of the lightweight men’s four crew – along with Tom Marshall, Tim Richards and Charlie Waite-Roberts – who were pipped on the line by Italy at Linz, Austria in 2013.

Joel, Tim, Jamie Copus and Iain Mandale then finished runners-up to a Spanish crew at the 2014 Championships in Varese, Italy.

Joel also got to experience a multi-sport event when he raced alongside Joe Guppy in the men’s pair at the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney.

Now he has set his sights on the biggest competition of them all, the Olympic Games in Rio. We caught up with Joel to chat about his rowing career to date, his ambitions and life outside the boat.

GBRT: How and why did you first start rowing?

JC: I first started rowing back in 2007. Mum is to thank for that! I had played rugby for a couple of years at school but didn’t really get anywhere with it. Mum finally got fed up with me lounging around the house doing nothing so dumped me down at Bann Rowing Club. I instantly loved it. Bann is a close-knit community and in many ways a family. With their support, especially my former coach Seamus Reynolds, they got me to where I am today.

GBRT: What has been your biggest success and your biggest disappointment in the sport so far?

JC: My biggest success so far has to be with Oxford Brookes, winning the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. In 2013 we lost to the eventual winners, Delftsche Studenten Roeivereeniging Laga from Holland. We were the closest loser to Laga, so we were able to start our 2014 campaign knowing we were within touching distance of winning. Combine that with being the fastest UK university crew in the run up to Henley and it was a fantastic season, definitely the most enjoyable to date.

My biggest disappointment to date was just missing out on lightweight men’s four gold at the 2013 U23 World Championships in Linz, Austria. Charles Waite-Roberts, Tom Marshall, Timothy Richards and I came together as a crew relatively late, just a few weeks before the competition, but we instantly showed we were capable of winning, and throughout the week of the championships got faster and faster. The final was an excellent race – we led the field for the majority of the race but were just pipped at the line by an excellent Italian Crew. If we’d had more time together in the run-up I think we could have won but I try not to think about it too much.

GBRT: What are some of your most memorable moments in your career so far?

JC: One of the best moments in my career so far was my first selection two years ago, competing at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney. It was probably the best rowing trip I’ve ever been on so far.

GBRT: What aspirations do you have within the sport?

JC: To win an Olympic gold medal.

GBRT: Who is your best friend within the rowing set-up and why?

JC: Well that probably has to be Peter Chambers. He’s intensely annoying, petulant, opinionated, unforgiving, rude and grumpy but I seem to like him for some reason. I’m kidding of course!

GBRT: Who do you look up to?

JC: My fellow Coleraine rowers Richard and Peter Chambers, and Alan Campbell. Watching them compete back in 2012 definitely inspired me and showed me that I could have a rowing career beyond junior rowing, and proved to me that GB Rowing Team was the place to be to do it. They’re heroes to the town, so therefore there are big expectations to follow in their footsteps.

GBRT: What hobbies and hidden talents do you have?

JC: I have a particular skill of being awful at anything which involves throwing or catching, literally useless, so you could say finding rowing was quite lucky for me. I like to watch a bit of golf when the Masters come on.

GBRT: What are some of your favourite bands?

JC: I’m pretty eclectic when it comes to music. Right now I’m loving Calvin Harris, everything he seems to bring out is brilliant. Also, playing the stereotype, I don’t mind a bit of Irish music either!

GBRT: Favourite books?

JC: Anything written by Jeremy Clarkson – he has me in hysterics every time.

GBRT: Favourite films and TV shows?

JC: Hot Fuzz has to be my favourite film. I could probably say every line in that film I’ve watched it so many times. Suits is also a brilliant program, it made law actually seem interesting to me.

GBRT: What qualifications and job aspirations do you have outside of rowing?

JC: I’m currently studying Law and Politics at Oxford Brookes University. I’m a bit of a politics bore at heart, so I’d probably want to have a job in politics. Whether it’s here in England or back home in Northern Ireland I’m not sure yet.