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Former Olympic long jump champion Saladino retires

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's former Olympic long jump champions Irving Saladino retired from athletics on Thursday after losing a long battle against injuries.

Saladino became Central America's first Olympic gold medal winner at the 2008 Beijing Games having also been crowned world champion the year before in Osaka.

"I have to inform you that I've made the decision to halt my athletics career because I've had many kinds of injuries and I think the time has come," Saladino told reporters.

"I'm saying goodbye to long jumping," added the 31-year-old, who will act as a sports ambassador for his country and help with the development of young Panamanian athletes.

Saladino's all time best leap was 8.73 metres, among the 10 best ever, at a meeting in the Netherlands in May 2008.

He was not in his best form at the London Games in 2012 and had hoped to get fit enough to take part in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and was training in Brazil.

"I always had a certain fear of a complication with my knee," said Saladino, whose recent performances had not been encouraging.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)