Belfast Telegraph

Golden boy Cassells is champion of the world

By Frank Brownlow

Joel Cassells was "ecstatic" after signalling his arrival among rowing's elite with a gold medal at the World Championships in France - becoming one of Northern Ireland's potential stars at next summer's Olympics in Rio.

Cassells and his Great Britain team-mate Sam Scrimgeour won the lightweight pairs in Aiguebelette.

The duo dominated from the start, finishing 2.62 seconds ahead of France with Germany in third.

"I'm ecstatic. It's my first gold at this level so it's very special. We rowed a very good race," said Cassells, the latest off the high-class Coleraine production line that also includes current Olympic contenders Alan Campbell and the Chambers brothers, Richard and Peter.

And Cassells focus is now on Olympic success, though at 21 years of age, time is on his side.

"It's my aim to win an Olympic gold medal," he said.

Reflecting on his meteoric rise, Cassells said: "I first started rowing back in 2007. My 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."

The lightweight pairs is a non-Olympic class but the performances of Cassells and Scrimgeour could put them in contention for promotion to one of Britain's Rio berths. Cassells revealed that he had been inspired by his fellow Coleraine rowers.

"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 was the place to be to do it," he said.

"They're heroes to the town, so therefore there are big expectations to follow in their footsteps."

Earlier this season, Cassells and Peter Chambers won the European title in the lightweight pairs class.

Campbell and Peter Chambers failed to reach the 'A' finals.

Single sculler Campbell and Chambers - in the lightweight four - will compete in 'B' finals tomorrow when they will attempt to secure Olympic spots.

Chambers and his team-mates were fourth in their semi-final with Campbell - the London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist - fifth in his single sculls semi-final.

The top five finishers in the lightweight four 'B' final will clinch places in Rio while Campbell - at 32, the Ulster contingent's senior statesman - will need a top-three finish in his 'B' decider to book a Team GB berth.

Richard Chambers and Will Fletcher will race in the lightweight double sculls final today.

Leonora Kennedy, from Enniskillen, and Ireland team mates Aifric Keogh, Monika Dukarska and Barbara O'Brien took fifth in the women's four 'A' Final.

Belfast Telegraph

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