Posted by Hopwood Wendy
Date: 8th February 2021
Stawell Gift Men’s champion Dhruv Rodrigues Chico plans to return to defend his title this Easter but the trophy holder believes that back to back wins will be a tough ask.
The feat has only been achieved once before by Bill Howard in 1966/67. Stawell Gift Hall of Famer Josh Ross has had two wins in the Men’s final but two years apart in 2003 and 2005.
“It’s going to be very tough but I’m excited at the thought. I’ve improved in the past two seasons but I’m back seven metres from my 2019 mark. That’s a lot of ground to make up. I will definitely feel the adrenaline rush on the day but I’m realistic about my chances,” said Dhruv.
Coach Tom Morehouse said that while being the coach of a Powercor Stawell Gift champion is an honour, “all good things must come to an end. It’s nice to have that accomplishment but I think it’s important to be always looking forward to the next goal for your athletes.”
Dhruv has had success since Stawell with wins on both the pro-running and track circuit.
“I would say my highlight since Stawell is taking out the Open 200m Victorian Championship in 2020.”
Like many athletes Dhruv found 2020 challenging. “It was definitely tough to stay motivated during the latter parts of lockdown. Training solo, completing sessions within time limits, and often without a coach present was very challenging. I struggled to complete sufficient strength training for eight months with the gym closures, so like many Victorian athletes I had to make do with what was available. It wasn’t the big winter I was hoping for, but I did my best under the circumstances.”
Tom Morehouse agrees it has been difficult for the athletes but also frustrating for coaches. “Dhruv has certainly worked hard, but there were a number of issues outside of his control. “He wasn’t able to complete key training elements such as hills due to the travel distance limits, and likewise often had to train without either a coach or training partner.
“I live more than five kilometres from all three local tracks so there was a three-month period where I saw very few of my squad in person. I spent a lot of time sending messages, in phone conversations, and reviewing videos. I really missed them. The one upside to the lockdown was it highlighted to me just how much I enjoy our training sessions, and what a privilege it is to be their coach.”
One of Dhruv’s dreams is to represent Australia at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, but he knows that goal will take years of discipline and a lot of hard work.
“There’s a big difference between winning off a handicap and running 10.05 or 20.24 to qualify for the Olympics. Dhruv understands that it’s going to take several years of hard work, dedication, perseverance, and a little bit of luck for him to have that opportunity. I don’t doubt that he has the talent, and he is certainly a very determined individual,” said Tom.
We asked both reigning champ and coach for their tips for this year’s Powercor Stawell Gift.
Dhruv: “I liked Jack Boulton’s win at Parkdale, but I think Max Mason will win. He was impressive at Geelong and dominated at Hastings last season.”
Tom: “My pre-season pick for Stawell is Matt Burleigh from Todd Ireland’s stable based on his past two seasons, and everything he’s produced so far this year has been of high quality. His squad mate, Jake Ireland, received a huge pull for his dominating win at Wangaratta. He will still be very much in the mix at Stawell if he wants it, but he may decide to wait for a lift in 2022. I think the Wangaratta final will turn out to be a harbinger for Stawell and it will be a battle between Burleigh, Ireland, Max Mason, Munashe Hove and Sebastian Baird. I don’t know who will win, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Posted by Hopwood Wendy
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