Athletics: Ladejo follows decathlon trail

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With the world indoor trials coming up in Birmingham in two weeks' time, this weekend's AAAs indoor championships at the same venue have diminished in importance in some athletes' eyes. But there will be a number of top- class performers in action pursuing their own agendas for the season, and none of them is likely to be as nervous as Du'Aine Ladejo.

The European 400 metres champion of 1994, whose Olympics last summer were undermined by a viral infection, has taken a giant leap of faith into another event this season. He will race his first indoor 60 metres today as part of his preparations for the decathlon.

Ladejo had already become disenchanted with the 400m at this time last year, but he only turned his mind to the challenge of 10 events after talking on the plane back home from Atlanta with Tessa Sanderson, the 1980 Olympic javelin champion.

"Du'Aine had been pushed towards the 400m when he was at college in the States," said Tony Hadley, Ladejo's coach. "But when Tessa asked him what his first love was in athletics, he recalled doing all the throwing, jumping and running events as a youngster."

"When he told me after Atlanta that he wanted to do the decathlon, I admit I was surprised. But after five minutes I was excited. I've never coached a decathlete before. It will be a steep learning curve for him. But the guy has got enormous guts and courage to take such a decision. It would be pie in the sky to think he could do a full decathlon this year. We are looking more towards 1998."

Ladejo, who ran 6.71sec in a wind-assisted outdoor 60m in South Africa this week, is receiving specialist training in the pole vault, where he has cleared 4.60m, and from the Olympic silver medallist Steve Backley in the javelin.

Ladejo will be more concerned about getting a good start than anything else, but the opposition in today's 60m is formidable, including Colin Jackson, the world high hurdles record holder who is aiming for the 60m/60m hurdles double at the world indoor championships in March.

Also due to run at the National Indoor Arena are Jason Livingston, the 1992 European indoor champion who has recently returned after a four-year drug ban, Darren Braithwaite, world indoor silver medallist in 1995, and the local runner Mike Rosswess, who has won this title for the last three years.