How one Kenyan village dominates the Olympics


Even before the sun has risen, hundreds of Kenyan runners pound the roads around Iten -- perhaps not yet fully awake, and still dreaming of future glories. The men and women hardly seem to notice the thin, crisp air -- the town is 2,400 metres above sea level -- as they seemingly glide up and down the steep hills. Most, but not all of the runners here are from the same ethnic group, the Kalenjin.

SOUNDBITE 1 Renato Canova (man), Athletics coach (English, 21 sec):
"They can be like similar to Formula One, where the engine is very very strong, and the weight of the body is very very light. This is the main attitude for long distances."

Iten, with a population of just a few thousand, has produced a staggering number of world and Olympic champions and they’re expecting a healthy crop of new medals from the London Games.

The village's high altitude pushes the body to produce more oxygen-rich red blood cells so that when they run at sea level, they can go faster, for longer.

Last year, the 20 fastest official marathon times were all clocked by Kenyans, the majority of whom train in Iten.

SOUNDBITE 2 Elias Kiptum Maindi (man), Linz Marathon winner, 2008 and 2009 (English, 14 sec):
"We ran to school from a very long distance so everybody is actually a runner, and the people around here are very encouraging, the community keeps encouraging everyone to run, to make a living."

Runners from all over the world are drawn to the magic of the place, and come here to benefit from the high altitude and try to uncover/learn the secrets.

Johana grew up in Kenya's lowlands -- on the edge of the Maasai Mara. From a family of animal herders, he learnt to run by chasing away lions and elephants. He now has bigger dreams and funds his sporting ambition by selling souvenirs to tourists.

SOUNDBITE 3 Johana Kariankei (man), Runner and owner of Olympic corner (English, 13 sec):
"I was thinking that I cannot achieve being in the Olympics because these guys are very far from me, but now when I see them, when I train with them I know I'm very close now."

The sign at the entrance of town leaves no doubt as to what lies within. No one really knows why so many Olympians come from here, but the conveyor belt of talent shows no sign of stopping.



-VAR runners
-Shot of sunrise
-VAR runners
-VAR runners on the track
-Shot of Wilson Kipsang, favourite for gold in London and second faster marathon runner ever
-Shot of track
-Shot of European runners
-Shot of runner
-Shot of Olympics corner and Johana Kariankei
-Shot of Olympic sign
-Shot of tourist at Olympic corner stall
-Shot of Johana's hands
-Shot of Town of champions sign
-Shot of girls running