By Richard Martin
MADRID (Reuters) - Olympic champion high jumper Ruth Beitia has retired from athletics due to persistent injuries, the Spaniard announced on Wednesday.
"I've spent many years putting my body to 100 percent on many occasions and putting it to the limit on others," Beitia told a news conference in her home city of Santander, accompanied by her coach Ramon Torralbo.
"The situation we find ourselves in today is to tell you that we are calling time on our sporting life."
Beitia, who won the high jump competition at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last year, is the only Spanish female athlete to have won an Olympic gold.
She has combined her sporting exploits with a career in politics since she was elected to the regional parliament of Cantabria with the ruling PP party in 2011.
"I will take everything that sport has taught me, everything I have learned from Ramon with me into other aspects of my life. Sport will always remain with me," she added.
Beitia, 38, limped to last place in the World Championships in London in August as she struggled with injuries which marred her season, a year after a near-perfect campaign in which she took first place at the European championships in Amsterdam in addition to her Olympic triumph.
She was given the fair play award by the IAAF in London, however, for consoling her Italian rival Alessia Trost when the latter failed to get through the qualifiers.
Beitia briefly retired from athletics in 2012 after narrowly missing out on a medal at the London Olympics but returned to training two months later.
"The greatest athlete in Spanish history has retired," said Raul Chapado, president of the Spanish athletics federation.
"She has always been an example on and off the track. She has inspired athletics and inspired young boys and girls."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)