Athletics: Wariso joins the world-class ranks

In one of Britain's best events an old stager with a point to prove posted the best indoor time in the world this season. Simon Turnbull reports from the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham.

Solomon was revealed in all his glory here yesterday. Solomon Wariso entered the AAA Indoor Championships as the forgotten 200 metres man of British athletics. He emerged from the two-day meeting as the latest world- class 400 metres find.

Until the heats and semi-finals on Saturday, Wariso was an unknown quantity in the event in which Britain's cup runneth over with world-class talent. When he crossed the line in the final yesterday, he was on top of the world indoor rankings with 45.71sec and third on the British all-time indoor ranking list.

He was also greeted by the leader of the established order of British 400m running, Iwan Thomas, with the words: "Hello, European champion."

The British outdoor record holder, a spectator yesterday, was probably casting his mind forward to the European Indoor Championships and the realistic prospect of the freelance writer having a story of personal glory on his hands in Valencia at the end of the month. Wariso, however, mused: "I hope he meant the outdoor champion."

Considering Roger Black could not even get into the British team for the event in the World Championships last summer, 12 months after claiming the Olympic silver medal in Atlanta, striking European gold outdoors in Budapest in August would seem to be a hopeful scenario in the extreme. Wariso, though, has his sights on the 44 seconds time-barrier through which no Briton has ever run.

"The way I train I'm not really scared of anyone in the British team," he said. "Innocent reckons I can run 43.8 or 43.9."

Innocent Egbunike is the coach responsible for resurrecting the running career of the athlete who was sent home from the 1994 European Championships in Helsinki after being found guilty of taking the banned stimulant pseudoephedrine in a health substance called Up Your Gas.

Wariso has been training with the Nigerian, holder of the Commonwealth 400m record, in California since last August. "Derek Redmond trained with Innocent before he broke the British record in 1987," Wariso said. "He put me in touch with him. He also put me in touch with Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt."

Muller-Wohlfahrt is the Munich medical guru famed for treating such luminaries as Linford Christie, Katarina Witt, Jurgen Klinsmann and Luciano Pavarotti. The German solved an Achilles tendon problem that was threatening Wariso's life in the fast lane but one lingering wound has yet to heal.

"I've got to go to Budapest and do something. I couldn't retire with what happened at the last European Championships hanging over me," Wariso said.

Wariso plans to contest the 200m and the 400m in the Hungarian capital this summer. "He's our type of Michael Johnson," Michael Bruce, the Londoner's long-term British coach, ventured.

But Wariso had hardly stepped from the medal rostrum when Julian Golding, nine years his junior at 22, sped to the top of the world indoor rankings for 200m. The Blackheath Harrier gave a glimpse of his talent last summer, when he ran the third fastest 200m by a European and anchored the British 4 x 100m team to World Championship bronze medals. Yesterday he scorched once round the track in 20.46sec, overhauling Sean Baldock in the race of the championships.

Only one British sprinter has run faster indoors, the retired speed-merchant with whom he has been training in Lanzarote: Linford Christie.

Steve Smith, the Olympic bronze medallist, set a world indoor best for this year in the high jump of 2.36m at a meeting in Balingen, Germany, yesterday to beat the American Olympic champion, Charles Austin.