WEST FIFE athlete Billy Doyle has taken the first step in living the American dream – but is taking a detour before he Czechs out his new surroundings.

The Pitreavie AAC star, a Great Britain international at under-20 level, had been due to travel Stateside to begin a track and field scholarship at Princeton University in New Jersey last month.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the 400 metres runner has had to put jetting out to the United States on hold temporarily but he has moved to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, to meet up with other European athletes in the same boat while beginning his course in geography and politics with online classes.

Tight COVID-19 restrictions in New Jersey, which reduced the numbers that could meet in groups and clubs, and the number of societies on campus that could operate, means students like Doyle face a wait until Christmas before they may be able to take their places in class and on the track.

Speaking to Press Sport before departing for Prague, however, Doyle explained: "If all had gone to plan, I should have been going to America.

"I'd taken a year out from school, I was ready to go, so I was definitely in the mindset that August was the time I was leaving. It might not be New Jersey but I think some of the lessons that you learn from living independently, you're still going to learn them, whether it's in Prague or New Jersey.

"This is just another intermission that, in an ideal world, wouldn't be happening but I'm just trying to make the best of the cards I'm being dealt at the moment.

"They came out and said basically, 'We're going online until Christmas', and then after Christmas they'll make another statement somewhere around the end of November or start of December about what they're going to do for next term.

"You've been waiting for quite a while to go out there so it's a bit of a shame to realise that's going to be postponed for another six months at least but, to be honest, over the course of the summer, with all the struggles, trying to get a visa in COVID, it's been such a rollercoaster.

"One week, the American embassies aren't opening until October and you're not going, the next week they're opening but only to certain people, the week after you're going to get an appointment, then your appointment might be moved. I had such difficulties and ups and downs trying to get a visa over the course of the summer holidays that it was another brick in the wall.

"I suppose it didn't hit me as hard as it might have hit other American students who hadn't had to go through that.

"At the moment, with all incoming international students, they need to have at least some in-person component in order to get their visa activated. Even if I wanted to go to America, I don't have that opportunity because they won't activate my visa.

"The American guys, most of them, are still able to stay somewhere off campus, still train, and all their classes are online. I would've been happy to go over there and train with the guys as if it were a normal term, and I guess that leads on to why I'm looking to move to Prague for that reason."

Within hours of receiving confirmation that classes would be conducted online, Doyle and his fellow European athletes had been figuring out a plan that would enable them to maintain their training.

During lockdown, he had been able to run with his younger brother – also a Pitreavie member – and take advantage of Pitreavie playing fields and Ballast Bank in Inverkeithing, which he said he felt "quite lucky" to have.

"One of the advantages of not having many competitions this year was that I was quite easily able to adjust my training to get ready to go to America," he continued.

"Their season's about a month earlier so I was able to shut down a month earlier and adjust to their training, which has been quite nice.

"Having tried a few different things, I'm definitely someone who doesn't enjoy running on my own that much. I definitely like having coaches but if coaches aren't there, at least another couple of guys there just to run and train with. I'm not sure why or how, I just find I work a lot better under those scenarios.

"They (Doyle's fellow European athletes) seem like a group of really committed guys who will be in a similar mindset to me, and will want to balance it all but have a focus on the training. The advantage of one of them being from Prague is that he knows the best facilities and he knows some of the coaches and a few of the other guys so he's able to get everything sorted."

Due to the pandemic, the athletics season – like that of many other sports – has been hit badly, particularly outdoors.

At the end of August, Doyle headed to Meadowmill, East Lothian, for his first – and last – outdoor race this year in Scotland, having enjoyed Scottish Athletics National Indoor Under-20 Championship success at the beginning of 2020.

He clocked the fastest one-lap time of the day, 48.97 seconds, but said training and his studies will be his priority in the short-term rather than looking for races to run.

"This whole season, for everyone, targets have gone out the window," he added.

"Like with any season opener, you don't go out and expect to PB or anything, it's more just to make sure that I'm maintaining the level I was at beforehand.

"I think I was more nervous for that than I was for most of the indoor season, just because it's been a while that I've experienced the feeling of racing and warming up. Meadowmill's always a good track; if there had been a few quicker guys in the race, then it would've been better, but it was still good to get out.

"With lockdown, I've not really done any blocks and starts at all, so I was happy with getting out the blocks at least and that I wasn't all over the place. It was a decent all-round race; I was looking for a sub-49 and that's what I came out with, so I can't complain really.

"There was a possibility of maybe running in Prague but I know I don't want to because I've just started my first classes for uni. It'll be the first time I'm living independently, so for me it's a big enough adjustment and shock to the system as it is."