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World's fastest runner challenged by hometown rival ahead of 2012 London Olympics

By Clare Duffy and Sopan Deb
Rock Center

The fastest runner in the world happens to train with his stiffest competition, who also happens to be his friend and teammate.

Such is life for Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who is planning a second act at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Bolt is competing against fellow countryman Yohan Blake, who is aiming to knock the king off his throne at the London games, now just 100 days away.

"I want to just wow people, just to stun the world," Bolt told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview scheduled to air Wednesday night on Rock Center. "When they turn their TV off after these races, they should sit back in their chairs for a minute and think about what just happened."

Bolt has already stunned the world many times with his seemingly effortless speed. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he introduced himself to the global public by storming to a new world record of 9.69 seconds in the 100 meters. He won his second gold medal in the 200 meter final, setting another world record at 19.30 seconds. He added a third gold by running in the third leg as the Jamaican team won the 4-by-100 relay.

The streets of Jamaica shook with wild celebrations and, when Bolt returned home, his fellow countrymen greeting him like a conquering hero. He had just turned 22 years old.

"It was like God knew this was going to happen," Bolt said. “There were so many people pushing hands in the car... It was shocking, the amount of people who were there to come celebrate me, so it was wonderful."

In 2009, Bolt set two more world records at the World Track & Field Championships in Berlin, running an astounding 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters and a 19.19 in the 200 meter race.

However, in 2011, at the World Track & Field Championships in South Korea, Bolt was disqualified in the 100 meter event because of a false start. He lost the 100 meter title to his friendly rival Blake. 

Last September, at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels, Blake ran the second fastest 200 meter time ever at 19.26 seconds (Bolt’s world record is 19.19). At age 19, Blake is also the youngest sprinter ever to break the 10 second barrier for the 100 meter race. 

"I think people want the rivalry because it builds the sport up, but it’d be much easier if we were in separate camps or separate countries," Bolt said. "[But] it helps us push ourselves in training and work hard together."

‘Favorite sons’

Bolt is commonly referred to as one of Jamaica’s "favorite sons" and the country is very protective of him. One shopkeeper, for instance, refused to sell him a motorbike out of fear that he might get into an accident.

"He’s, like, ‘I’m not going to sell you a motorbike.’ I was, like, ‘Why?’ He was like, ‘Really? If anything happen to you, they’re going to come to me, so I’m not going to sell [it to] you.’ So that’s out the window completely," Bolt said. "If I mention motorbike to anybody, they freak out. So I just leave it alone." 

Editor’s note: Lester Holt’s full broadcast report about Usain Bolt airs Wednesday, April 18, at 9pm/8c, on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.