ROWING: Joel Cassells steps down from Great Britain rowing squad
Joel Cassells is going back to his roots after taking the decision to leave the GB Senior Squad with immediate effect.
The former World and European Lightweight Men's Pair champion has taken the decision after last year's ruling by the World Rowing Federation (FISA) to remove the lightweight division from the Olympic roster.
That coupled with a tough trials weekend recently at Caversham, where the sweep oarsman struggled to compete in a single scull at the high level he demanded of himself meant Cassells reassessed his future.
The Coleraine man says it feels like 'the end of era' but he is quick to point out that this in no way means his retirement from the sport.
"It’s been tough, but it has been a decision that I’ve mulled over for a while," said Cassells.
"It's sad that it's an end of an era in some respects, but I look forward to the new challenges as I move on in both sport and life.
"I don’t see this as retirement at all, its merely gong back to enjoying the sport I love for as long as I can."
Cassells had hoped to follow in the footsteps of fellow Coleraine rowers Peter and Richard Chambers by rowing in the Lightweights at the Olympics, but he feels he has been robbed of that dream now.
"My whole experience of rowing changed when FISA decided to remove lightweight rowing from the Olympic roster," he said.
"It was my dream for years to follow in the footsteps of Peter and Richard and row in the lightweight four, that dream was taken away by FISA.
"You don’t immediately think it affects you, but eventually it starts to hit home that the future has been altered by the politics of sport.
"But life doesn’t always deal you the hand you want, and I just have to accept when to move on.
"I just hope that FISAs decision wasn’t short sighted, and that the repercussions don't have a lasting impact on rowing.
"It's already been hinted that lightweight rowing will likely end after 2020."
Tokyo will host the Games in two years time, but does Cassells feel his Olympic dream is over for good?
"I was always told to never say never," he said.
"If you had told me when I was a wee beginner down at Bann Rowing Club in Coleraine that i’d have achieved what I have done up to now, I’d have never believed you. We’ll see.
"Right now I’m continuing rowing by going by to Oxford Brookes Boat Club, to get stuck into the part of the sport I always enjoyed most, racing in the mens’s eights.
"I’ll be training to race at Henley Royal Regatta, an event I won with Brookes in 2014 before I entered the team.
"Brookes is where I developed as a senior athlete and I can’t wait to get back there and continue where I left off.
"I have the whole summer racing season to look forward to, racing in places like Belgium and Germany, I’ll enjoy every second of it.
"Long term, I’m considering applying to do a masters at Cambridge in 2019 and train for the Boat Race.
"I'm undecided if want to do another full season rowing until then, or whether I look to get a job in Westminster and build my career experience.
"My ambition has always been to pursue a carrier in politics after rowing, in what form and where I haven’t quite decided yet."
As Cassells knows rowing is one of the toughest and challenging sports, but he is relishing getting back in a boat again.
"Challenge is what makes life worth living," he said.
"I can’t wait to get back into a boat at Brookes and start that relentless grind of hard work, racing, and most importantly enjoying it.
"I’ll take each challenge as it comes, first off is getting another win at Henley Royal Regatta then I’ll take it from there.
"What matters most in tough times like this is the support I’ve got from my family and friends.
"I may say it a lot but I value the support from home so much. Thanks goes to everyone who helped me through international rowing.
"Though the game has changed, I still plan to row at the highest level possible, and make the north coast proud."