Bolt saviour as athletics look to clean up in Rio

Three athletics golds will be won on the first day

The history-chasing exploits of Usain Bolt will take centre-stage as the Olympic track and field competition begins on Friday with the drug-tarnished sport seeking rebirth after a year of shame.

Ten days of competition in Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Stadium get under way with officials keen to draw a line under a miserable 12 months which has left the athletics' image languishing at an all-time low.

As ever, it will be left to track and field's greatest showman, Bolt, to restore the feel-good factor as the sport attempts to turn the page on the Russian doping scandal and corruption allegations.

In his last Olympics, Jamaican star Bolt is gunning for 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay gold after sweeping the titles in 2008 and 2012.

The first leg of Bolt's "Treble Treble" quest gets under way on Saturday, with the opening heats of the 100m before the final on Sunday.

"As a young kid you grow up looking forward to the big games," said Bolt. "Championships are what matters. This is what I do."

Just as he was at the World Championships in Beijing, Bolt is likely to find himself cast as the good guy in a hero vs. villain duel with long-time rival Justin Gatlin.

Bolt has the 9.58sec 100m world record, but Gatlin is the fastest man in the world this season over 100m and he continues to polarise opinion over his two doping bans.

At an Olympics which has seen ugly spats in the swimming pool involving athletes with drug-tainted records, it is a safe bet that Gatlin will once again find his past under scrutiny.

Three athletics golds will be won on the first day of competition at the Olympic stadium, with Ethiopian star Tirunesh Dibaba favoured to make history in the women's 10,000 metres.

That is not the only key action of the day. The 24 golds on offer include Michael Phelps going for his 23rd career gold and fifth of the week, while French judo heavyweight Teddy Riner is looking for a second straight Olympic title.

After a year of drug scandals involving Russia, Kenya and other nations, track and field is looking for its stars to restore trust.

And the women's 10,000m race starts the serious business.

The 31-year-old Dibaba will become the first woman to win three consecutive golds in an individual athletics event if she retains the crown won in London four years ago.

But she lost by 20 seconds to Ethiopian rival Almaz Ayana in June and Kenya's world champion Vivian Cheruiyot will also be seeking to add to Dibaba's problems.

New Zealand's Valerie Adams could also become the first woman to three titles if she can get the shot put title before Dibaba.

The 31-year-old was initially second at London 2012 but winner Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus was later found to have failed two doping tests.

Adams has suffered with injuries but has beaten reigning world champion Christina Schwanitz twice this year.

The final, and slowest, gold of the day is the 20km race walk.

Look out also for Jessica Ennis-Hill as the Britain - one of the stars of London 2012 - starts her bid to regain the heptathlon title. And the women's 100m heats start with Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also eyeing a hat-trick of victories in the 100m.

Riner on top

Teddy Riner has dominated judo virtually since he won his first world title at the age of 18 in Rio.

At 2.03 metres (6ft 8in) and 141 kilos (310 pounds) fighting him is not a task to be taken lightly. But Japan's Hisayoshi Harasaw says he is ready to battle the 27-year-old eight-time world champion.

The two have never fought and it would be one of the most eagerly anticipated Olympic finals if it comes off Friday.

There is also the women's 78kg title at stake.

The Rio Games hit the one-week mark with titles also up for grabs in the equestrian team dressage, four in rowing, two in shooting, two in weightlifting, one on the first day of trampoline competition, one in archery, the tennis men's doubles, two in cycling, four in swimming - including Phelps in the 100m butterfly and Katie Ledecky in the women's 800m freestyle - and one in fencing.

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