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Defending Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford was reduced to third place as American Jeff Henderson won the closely fought men's competition.Another defending champion was dethroned in the women's 100 metres: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's attempt to become the first person to win three straight Olympic track titles was thwarted by Jamaican teammate Elaine Thompson.A surprise victory for the hosts came via Thiago Braz da Silva, who added ten centimetres to his previous best to win in an Olympic record of 6.03 m ahead of world record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France.

Poland's Anita Włodarczyk was dominant in the hammer throw, becoming the first woman to throw beyond eighty metres three times in a competition and adding over a metre to her own world record with 82.29 m (269 ft 11​ in).

At the opening ceremony two figures from the sport of athletics played a key role: Olympic medallist in the marathon, Vanderlei de Lima, lit the Olympic flame for his home nation, while Kenya's Kipchoge Keino became the first recipient of the Olympic Laurel for his efforts in promoting sport.

On the first day, the first gold medal was won by Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, who broke a long-standing world record in the women's 10,000 metres by almost fifteen seconds.

The race as a whole was historically fast, setting four of the five fastest times ever for the distance and seeing eight national records broken.

China's Wang Zhen was the first male winner of the 2016 Olympic athletics, topping the 20 kilometres race walk podium.

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