News & Updates

18 April 2023 • Track and Field

Sprint ace Dhruv has global ambitions

Dhruv Rodrigues Chico won a brace of medals at the 2023 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships snaring 100m silver and 200m gold. (Credit: Alisha Lovrich)

A self-confessed “late bloomer” sprinter Dhruv Rodrigues Chico is a man in a hurry.

This season the Melbourne-based Kiwi has emerged as a significant sprinting talent on both sides of the Tasman. In March, the 24-year-old athlete impressed at the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington by winning 100m silver and 200m gold medals.

Then he climaxed a breakout season by snaring 100m silver at the Australian Championships in a slick 10.21 to climb to number six on the all-time New Zealand lists – just one place and 0.03 behind Tiaan Whelpton and Joseph Millar.

Now the former grass track professional sprinter is looking to take the next steps in his sprinting journey by reducing his hours as a full-time car mechanic to focus even more seriously on his burgeoning sprints career.

“Things have really clicked for me this year,” explains Dhruv, who is affiliated to Auckland City Athletics.

“The Aussie Champs was the pinnacle of my domestic season in terms of my PB. Now I can really put my foot down and the next step for me is to work just two or three days a week.”

Born in Goa in India he relocated at the age of two to live in Auckland, where he spent the next eight years of his life.

A former student at Prospect Primary School in Glen Eden he has fond memories of his time living in New Zealand before at the age of ten he was on the move with his family to Melbourne, where he still resides today.

A quality soccer player – good enough to play in the National Premier League (NPL) one tier below the A League – he discovered a passion for running almost by chance.

Entering a schools competition at the age of 18 he ran a 10.93 100m clocking  – which was to prove a real sliding doors moment for Dhruv

“It was only after the race I was told I’d managed to run a national qualification time by Victorian sprinting rep Sean Whipp. At that time I said, ‘I’m a soccer player, it is not really me’. But I thought about it, gave the nationals a crack and overtime gave up soccer to focus on running.”

At the 2017 Aussie Champs in Sydney he ran a windy 10.89 to finish fifth in his 100m heat but the sprinting flame was ignited. In a desire to improve he joined the Melbourne-based training group coached by Tom Morehouse and for the next two years focused as part of the House of Speed professional sprinting group – racing on the Australian grass track circuit.

Making quick progress under the guidance of Morehouse – whom he describes as like “a father-figure” – he quickly impressed and in 2019 took out the iconic Australian professional sprinting race – the Stawell Gift.

The competition, which is screened live on Australian TV is a huge event. Dhruv claimed a convincing win in the handicap sprint and banked the lucrative first prize of $40,000 (AUS).

“Coming from a soccer background I was used to running on grass and winning the Stawell Gift definitely was a nice feeling and it opened my eyes to the future,” he explains.

“I was aged 20 at the time and although I felt pro running was a good way for me to start my sprinting career I wanted to compete on the world stage and that’s why I moved to the track.”

In 2020 – his first season focused as a track runner – he ran a 100m PB of 10.47 and a 200m best of 21.34. He continued to make more progress in 2021 and picked up an impressive 200m silver medal in the 200m in 20.90  – finishing just 0.02 behind the gold medallist Alex Beck.

On the face of it this was an excellent display for the rookie athlete, but Dhruv always strives for more and post-race he felt a mixed set of emotions.

“My blocks slipped on me in the heats, I got called back but Sean Whipp protested on my behalf and just 45 minutes before the final I was chucked in lane one for the final. It was my first time racing in lane one, and I not particularly pleased with how the race went because I knew I could have won that race but it was a good learning experience which made me stronger as an athlete.”

Working every day from 8am-4.30pm in a car workshop and then heading out to training has not been easy for Dhruv. Yet with a quality training group – many of whom focus on grass track professional racing – and under the coaching of Tom Morehouse has proved the perfect elixir to thrive.

“One of the best aspects of working with is Tom is he is realistic about everything,” explains Dhruv. “He never pumps my tyres up or drags me down – he is right in the middle. This is great as an athlete because you need to know where you are placed. We are a great team with a great chemistry – I don’t think I could ask for a better coach.”

Believing he is “very coachable” and never taking criticism to heart, Dhruv has unquestionably enjoyed the best season of his career to date.

However, 2023 was also important for him to further bed down his affiliations with New Zealand and he competed at both the Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic in Wellington in February before returning to the capital for his maiden Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in March.

At Newtown Stadium he performed well to run a wind-aided 10.31 for silver in the 100m before returning to blitz to the national 200m crown in 21.10 (-0.4) but ever the perfectionist he strived for more.

“It was great to experience my first New Zealand Championships and to run in a different country,” he says. “I was fairly pleased with my performance, although as an athlete what you want is a good time, and my times weren’t the best. But I was happy to take the title.”

On his return to Aussie, Dhruv stepped up another notch. At the Sydney Track Classic he ran a 100m PB of 10.37 to win the B race. He enjoyed more B race success in the 200m at the Brisbane Track Classic to run a PB of 20.81 – and climb to number nine on the all-time NZ lists.

Before his crowning glory for the season – that 10.21 PB for silver at the Aussie Champs. A versatile performer, who has impressed in both the 100m and the 200m – he believes there has been a shift this season in his primary event.  

“I used to say hands down it was the 200m, but this season I would say my 100m has been better,” he admits. “I haven’t done a lot of longer stuff in training and if you look across the two distances my 200m have been much slower this year. I want to be more versatile but this season it just wasn’t there in the 200m.”

Aged just 24 and still a relative newbie to the sport the New Zealand sprinter would appear to have scope to improve significantly and he is not lacking in ambition.

“I want to be in the major league and major world events, this is what I’m working towards,” he says. “Athletics is addictive. You get those highs and lows and when you feel that high you want to chase it again. It is an addiction.”