Kenyan athletes

CNN's Inside Africa brings you an inside look to the flourishing athletics grounds of Iten

This week’s Inside Africa profiles Iten – a small west Kenyan town overlooking the Great Rift Valley – which is attracting a stampede of world-class athletes with its high altitude and running culture, and the Sagana River, a hub for kayaking and canoeing. At these magnificent settings, CNN’s Inside Africa explores what it takes to be a champion.

Inside Africa meets a man who’s spent decades working with homegrown running stars, Colm O’Connell. O’Connell coached many of the athletes on the Kenyan team that took the top spot in the 2015 World Championships.

He tells Inside Africa: “Our spirits are high. Kenya came out number one in Beijing, first time ever in the history of the country, but we must keep our feet on the ground. We must keep our athletes grounded.”

One of the most successful Iten women runners is the 2015 NYC marathon winner Mary Keitany. She says: “It's really amazing for me because I closed the season with a victory, so it means a lot to me. I would like to go and try to make a way so I can try to get a medal in Rio.”

The programme also films at the Sagana River. It is here that Kenya’s rowing and canoe association is found, and where its members are set to compete against Africa’s best canoe athletes.

Titus Mukundi, who is a member of the Kenyan national team, says: “The competition is very stiff because most of the people coming to compete here, compete in Europe. Some of them have actually been in some of the top events in the world.”

The Slalom Coordinator of the International Canoe Federation Pierrick Gosselin explains how the organisation is providing facilities and equipment for African athletes. “We provide boats and we teach the people, the locals, how to build their own equipment. By 2018 or maybe 2022, these young kids will be able to catch up with the Europeans for sure.”

Back at Iten, four-time world champion Lornah Kiplagat tells CNN how the town attracts athletes from all over the world. “We have elite athletes from all over the world. Name any country you know and they've been here.”

Kiplagat helped create the high altitude training centre in Iten, which includes a track, swimming pool and gym designed to meet an athlete’s every need.

British Athletics’ David Harmon tells Inside Africa why his athletes come to Kenya for high altitude training. “When we get those athletes and they have that drive, and we put them in this environment, we can match the best in the world for sure.”

At the high altitude centre, the programme meets one of Kenya’s top female runners, Irene Chebet Cheptai, who will train here in preparation for the Rio Olympics. She says: “The competition in Kenya is very difficult to make the team. But it depends on whether you have done your training. So if you do your training, you will make it.”

Don't miss this enlightening look at athletics in Iten, tune in to Inside Africa on Tuesday 8 December at 12:30 on CNN (401).