Athletics: Walker ready to step into the `unknown'

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DOUG WALKER, Scotland's European 200 metres champion, has committed himself to new territory in the Bupa Indoor Grand Prix at Birmingham on 14 February - the 400 metres.

Walker, who defeated most of Britain's leading one-lap runners over 300 metres earlier this year, is taking what he describes as a "step into the unknown" at what will be the first domestic event to be televised within the new BBC deal.

Among his likely opponents at the National Indoor Arena are Jamie Baulch and Solomon Wariso, who moved up from 200 to 400m this year to dramatic, if not always satisfactory, effect.

The 24-year-old, who is now fully recovered from the knee operation he underwent three weeks before the Commonwealth Games, has no plans for a long-term change of distance - "I don't feel I have achieved my full potential at 200 yet," he said yesterday.

He has lined up another challenge after the Birmingham meeting - a six- week spell of warm weather training in Australia during which he will compete in the famed Stowell Gift professional races run near Melbourne.

As an enthusiast of the Scottish professional racing scene Walker wants to run for the experience - which is just as well, as the handicaps for non-Australian runners are usually prohibitively tough. "I just want to be able to say I've done it," he said.

Ian Stewart, the Birmingham meeting director, has already arranged for Ethiopia's multiple world record holder Haile Gebrselassie to make an attempt on the world indoor 3,000m record, having set a new mark over 2,000 metres at the last meeting in front of more than 500 home supporters.

"The crowd got behind me so well in Birmingham earlier this year that I had to come back and attempt to break another record for them," Gebrselassie said.

The increased budget following the BBC deal will probably have strengthened the Ethiopian's commitment on that point.