Africa is not known for its cold weather, but Lesotho is not like most African countries.

The landlocked mountainous kingdom, which is completely surrounded by South Africa, is a place where temperatures can fall to just above freezing in winter.

As well as being cooler, Lesotho is also high.

It is the only country in the world which is completely above 1,000 metres in elevation, while it has the "highest lowest point" of any nation, at 1,400m.

Lesotho's natural geography means that it even boasts a ski resort - a rare find in Africa.

The country's athletes will also use what is on their doorstep when preparing for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Training at altitude creates more red blood cells, in turn allowing an athlete to carry more oxygen. This extra oxygen gives the muscles a boost, even when training back down at a lower level.

"When they train at this high altitude it can give them a better chance of performing well at a lower level, at the sea level," said Fetang Selialia, Lesotho's Chef de Mission for Birmingham 2022.

"Most of our athletes like training in the lowlands! 

"But if you train in the mountains you can perform much, much better. 

"We will see how we can take them to high altitude, spend some time there and train around there. 

"So when we come over to Birmingham they give their best performance." 

Selialia, the President of the Federation of Lesotho Rugby and a member of the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC), added that the team would also seek warmer weather to help acclimatise before Birmingham.

Netang Khatala, left, finished 20th in the marathon at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Netang Khatala, left, finished 20th in the marathon at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

"The weather is really starting to get cold here in Lesotho," he said. 

"So we want to take our athletes to Durban so it's a little bit warmer. 

"From Durban they go directly to Birmingham. 

"They can adjust to the weather."

Lesotho is due to send 21 athletes to the Commonwealth Games, including five men and five women in athletics.

Five boxers, two road cyclists, two mountain bikers, a Para-athlete and a weightlifter are set to complete the team.

Athletes to watch include Netang Khatala, after her 20th place finish in the women's marathon at the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympics last year.

"We are really hopeful of a medal," said Selialia. "She's our biggest star."

In the ring, Rio 2016 Olympian Moroke Mokhotho will look to go one better than his quarter-final appearance at Gold Coast 2018, where he was one victory away from a guaranteed bronze in the men's bantamweight.

Birmingham should be the third Commonwealth Games for Mokhotho, who leads the LNOC Athletes' Commission.

Selialia knows what it is like to compete for Lesotho as he played as prop for the national rugby union side.

"It's an honour when you hear your national anthem play as an athlete," he said.

"I used to shed a tear, a little bit, it was emotional. 

"When the whistle goes you want that first hit, you want to knock the first guy out! You know how rugby is.

"I want to instill this kind of mentality into our team. 

Moroke Mokhotho, left, is one of five boxers Lesotho has named in its team for Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images
Moroke Mokhotho, left, is one of five boxers Lesotho has named in its team for Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images

"I want all our athletes who are coming to represent us to know what's at stake. 

"They are not coming to Birmingham for a holiday. They have to bring something for our people. 

"This country has been through so many things, there are a lot of problems so we need something to celebrate."

Lesotho's rugby team was remarkably only set-up in 2011 by Englishman Dan Aylward, who was working in the country and was looking for a place to play.

After originally marking out pitches using flour, the country has now earned victories over local rivals and created a league system.

Selialia, who took over from Aylward as President, said he learnt the sport in South Africa, a country with which there are inevitable close ties.

San Marino and the Vatican City - which are encircled by Italy - are the only other countries to be completely enclosed by another.

"We have a memorandum signed with South Africa," said Selialia.

"For example, the University of the Free State allows our CGA and some of our athletes to access their high performance facilities. 

"Netang Khatala is in Durban, she's running a lot of marathons.

"We have relations with South Africa because of our geopolitics."

Lesotho has won one gold, one silver and one bronze medal in its Commonwealth Games history.

The gold - the first medal the country won - arrived at Kuala Lumpur 1998 courtesy of men's marathon champion Thabiso Moqhali.

"He's still a big person here in the country, especially with assisting our up and coming road runners," Selialia said.  

"We want to use people like him to help us instill some positive mentality towards the players. 

"Not just the road runners but the entire team. Even me as well."

Thabiso Moqhali won Commonwealth Games gold for Lesotho in 1998  ©Getty Images
Thabiso Moqhali won Commonwealth Games gold for Lesotho in 1998 ©Getty Images

Lesotho has competed at every Commonwealth Games since Christchurch in 1974, with the exception of Brisbane 1982.

They have not won a medal since the Melbourne Games in 2006.

At Gold Coast 2018, three Australian runners were praised for their sportsmanship after they waited to greet home Lesotho's Lineo Chaka, who finished the 10,000m two laps behind the rest of the field. 

"The athletes that we have identified, the ones who have qualified through their National Federations, we give them a qualification criteria, we give them a qualification standard," said Selialia. 

"We ensure there is no bias when it comes to selecting athletes. 

"We ensure we bring in the best athletes from that discipline. 

"We don't expect them to bring in athletes who are not going to do well, we are bringing competitive athletes." 

Lesotho was dealt a COVID-19 related blow when its top weightlifter, Thapelo Sebota, was ruled out of Birmingham 2022.

He could not compete at the World Championships in Tashkent in December due to Uzbekistan's travel restrictions on countries in southern Africa, amid the Omicron variant.

Sebota then hoped to secure qualification to Birmingham at an event in Mauritius, but the International Weightlifting Federation blocked him after saying it had not received his whereabouts information.

This was denied by the Lesotho Weightlifting Federation, which said it had sent the required details.

"Our best [weightlifting] athlete is not coming, he was affected by issues surrounding COVID-19," said Selialia.

"The national stadium was also closed for a while. It disrupted a lot of the track and field athletes.  

"They were unable to train and we ended up taking some of them to South Africa to train in places like Bloemfontein. 

"Some currently are still in Durban." 

The visit of the Queen's Baton Relay in Lesotho started at the Royal Palace, where it was sent on its way by King Letsie III.

A symbol of the country is the Basotho straw hat, which features on the national flag and will no doubt be worn at the Birmingham Opening Ceremony.

There is even a building shaped like the hat in capital city Maseru.

"It's representative of who we are," said Selialia.  

The Basotho straw hat is a symbol of Lesotho  ©Getty Images
The Basotho straw hat is a symbol of Lesotho ©Getty Images

"It's a national symbol for us. 

"We pride ourselves on it as people from Lesotho. 

"When you leave the country, as a token of our appreciation, we'll always give you a hat. 

"To ensure that you will remember that, once, you were in Lesotho."

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were originally due to be held in Durban, which would have been a "local" event for Lesotho.

But they are looking forward to Birmingham, and the LNOC will be running a series of features on the country's athletes on Facebook.

"The Commonwealth Games are massive," said Selialia. "A massive showpiece which really brings people together. 

"I will be on national television discussing issues surrounding the Chef de Mission and issues surrounding Birmingham. 

"We are trying to put people into the spirit of the Commonwealth Games."