IT was only when he came back to Dunfermline last year that Aidan Thompson realised how much living in Nashville was starting to rub off on him.

“My parents were a bit concerned the last time I was home when I started putting on country music CDs in the car,” laughs the 24 year-old.

“They couldn’t believe I had got into Garth Brooks and other country artists. But you can’t escape it if you’re living in Nashville. It has a huge country music tradition. That was a culture shock at first but It’s actually not that bad after a while!

“And it’s just a lovely place to live, quite chilled out even just a few miles from downtown with lots of nice coffee shops and restaurants. And everyone is always really friendly and keen to chat when they hear the accent.” 

Luckily it’s not just his musical taste that the Fifer has developed during his time in Tennessee. The Stirling University graduate was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to Belmont University a few years ago, allowing him to combine studying for his Masters in Strategic Communication and Leadership while continuing to develop as an athlete. 

Having been forced home last year because of the coronavirus, the Central AC runner was a relieved man when circumstances changed and he was allowed to return to Nashville earlier this year. All being well, he will remain Stateside until the end of 2022.

“When I went home last year I made my peace that my time in America was probably over,” he added. “I had already done almost two years but wasn’t able to get back for the new autumn semester.

“I thought I might just have to move on and start looking for work back home. But I felt I had unfinished business over here and the athletics coach kept in touch and really pushed for me to come back when it was safe to do so. And I’ve not really looked back since.

“I’ve got this calendar year to compete at which point my eligibility will be up. After that I’m going to have another year as an assistant coach so I can complete my degree. 

“I think my parents are getting a bit fed up with me staying in the education system for so long! But this is the perfect spot for me to train and continue to improve as an athlete.

“With the course I’m doing and my plans for 2022, it’s leading towards hopefully moving into management and coaching roles when I finally finish.”

Coaching may be in his future but Thompson wants to make a mark in his own right first. A keen cross-country competitor, he has sized up the strength and depth in Scottish middle-distance running and spotted what he hopes is a gap at steeplechase.

He plans on returning briefly to the UK this summer to give the Olympic trials a whirl, with next year’s Commonwealth Games a more realistic target.

“I ran steeplechase a lot when I was back in Scotland and won medals in that event so when I’m on the track it’s something I’ve tended to specialise in,” he added. “Scottish middle distance running is in an incredible place right now from Guy Learmonth to Neil Gourley to Josh Kerr and my Central AC team-mate Andy Butchart. 

“But steeplechase seems like a real open event in Scotland so I’m looking at that. I’ve been a relatively late developer as an athlete but right now I feel like I’m in a good place. 

“I’m looking at trying to make the Commonwealth Games although standards are high. I’m working towards that and we’ll see where it takes me.

“This summer I’d like to compete in the Olympic trials just to get the experience and get among the guys of that calibre. I’ve got my flight booked home for June and see how I get on.” 

Given the moderate climate and stellar facilities, it is little wonder that Thompson feels settled in the States. But there are certain things from home that the Dunfermline Athletic fan admits he does miss.

“It’s sunny today and 16C so it’s easy to get up early for training at half 7 in the morning when the weather is like that,” he admits.

“I miss Scottish football although I can get access to Pars TV when I want to watch the bigger games. I’ve also got ESPN in the house so I was able to watch the Betfred Cup final recently.

“I’m sharing with two Americans and a Croatian lad so they were a bit bemused when I said there was a Scottish soccer match I wanted to watch. But they got quite into it after a while even if it wasn’t the most exciting game. So I’m spreading the word out here.”