DUNFERMLINE athlete Aidan Thompson has set his sights on challenging himself against Olympic hopefuls after resuming "unfinished business" Stateside.

The former Queen Anne High School pupil returned to Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee, in January having had to cut short a track and field scholarship initially last year because of COVID-19.

In an interview with Press Sport in October, endurance runner Aidan had been preparing to use that disappointment as motivation to star for Central AC and race to the top across Scotland.

However, after several discussions with family, Belmont's director of cross-country and track and field, Jeff Langdon; and his coach at Central AC, Derek Easton; the University of Stirling graduate decided to give the American dream another go.

Not only has it brought positive results in competition, it is setting Aidan, 24, up for a shot at June's Olympic trials – the British Athletics Championships – over June 26-27, if coronavirus restrictions allow.

In a wide-ranging Zoom chat with Press Sport, the former Pitreavie AAC star is delighted to be back at Belmont, where he is studying for a degree in strategic communication and leadership, and is excited about the challenges and targets that lie ahead in 2021.

"Early in November, I started having more serious phone calls with the coach about things," he explained.

"He was very keen to get me back over. Basically, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) moved some protocols around and said that COVID's going to extend everybody's eligibility, so whether you're enrolled right now or not, it doesn't matter, we're going to give everyone an extra semester because nothing's really happened for the whole 2020 year.

"I thought that gives me an extra semester to compete, so the coach had got more and more interested in trying to seek me out and get me back out there. At the time, it was becoming very obvious that, in the UK for the non-elites, there was nothing going to be happening any time soon, and still I don't know when there will be anything happening back home.

"We slowly started having conversations, started to put some logistical stuff together, managed to get a visa much easier this time around, just as there was less demand I guess than there was in the summer, so I flew back out on January 6.

"I took a while to come round. I had, emotionally, closed the door on it after the summer; it took a lot out of me. It was a real shift and something that was pretty hard to take.

"I had been setting myself up with the idea of training with Central AC through in Stirling again, and just trying to knuckle down and get a serious career going and train alongside that, but I think after a while, and having had a few good conversations with my parents and my coach back home, Derek, it became obvious – and it probably sounds a bit cliche – that I was not over this at all.

"I think there was a bit of unfinished business and it became more and more obvious, once the offer was seriously on the table and it was logistically it was possible to get back out there, that this was something I really wanted.

"So far, it's been pretty much plain sailing, and fingers crossed it stays that way!"

With three cross-country events under his belt, including a win in his first back in the USA, the Belmont Opener, Aidan is looking forward to the track season beginning in the next few weeks.

When asked about his targets, he replied: "I'm looking at the regional championships; they'll be in May. Ideally, I'll be looking to go after the win in the conference, and regionals top six would be a good position.

"Regionals is always a good opportunity. I think 48 men qualify, so it's the best 48 guys on the east side of the country.

"I managed to compete in 2019 and probably didn't have my best day – I think I just got a bit overwhelmed with the competition – but you literally went up against the best college athletes in the country almost.

"That's obviously a good one and if things go really well there there's an opportunity for a national championship in June as well, in Oregon. That's sort of we'd love to do it, let's just get the first few races gone, see what kind of shape you're in, and work out if that's a realistic target or not.

"Then, hopefully, depending on what COVID and quarantine restrictions are like, I'm looking at the Olympic trials in June as well back in the UK.

"The flight home is booked for that; we'll just see if it's a possibility. That is the hope – if things are all going well, I can go to the Olympic trials, get that experience, go up against the top UK guys and see how I match up against them.

"Myself and Derek have talked about that a lot and he just said that with the age you're at, and the level you're at, you can't just shy away from the competition.

"We're not going to the Olympic trials trying to qualify for the Olympics– that would be crazy, we're just not at that level right now – but you want to get yourself on the start line next to these guys and actually see how far do you have to go to get to the top.

"I've managed to get three (races) in already and the next one is coming up in North Carolina in a few weeks as well. It's been great; I knew what I was signing up for and that was one of the big factors when I was making this decision.

"It's great to be back racing and the more I can get, and the more experience I get at this level, it's only going to bode well for the future."