By Mark Trevelyan

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan won the Olympic men's hammer title on Friday to capture the first gold medal for the Central Asian country since it gained its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus took silver at the age of 40, a year after returning to the sport having served a suspension for doping. Wojciech Nowicki of Poland won bronze, overtaking Mexico's Diego Del Real with his sixth and final effort after recording three fouls.

Nazarov took the lead in the first round and was immediately overtaken by Tsikhan, but he recovered first place in round three and remained on top.

Both men recorded their best throws in the fifth round, with Nazarov hurling the metal ball 78.68 meters, compared with 77.79 for his rival.

Nazarov, Tajikistan's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Games, came second in last year's world championship.

Tsikhan missed the 2012 Olympics after a sample he had given during the 2004 Athens games was retested and found to contain a banned substance. He began a two-year ban in late 2012, returning to competition in 2015.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)