Olympics-Snowboarding-White says Beijing will be his final competition

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Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men's Halfpipe Finals - Phoenix Snow Park – Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 14, 2018 - Shaun White of the U.S. celebrates. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Feb 5 (Reuters) - American snowboarder Shaun White, who became the face of the sport by winning three gold medals, said on Saturday the Beijing Olympics would be his last snowboarding competition and that he would retire from all contests.

"I think this will be my, well this will be my last competition too, which is pretty special," White, 35, told a news conference.

White, competing at his fifth Olympics here, had already said Beijing would be his last appearance on the Olympic stage.

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White, who won halfpipe golds at the 2006, 2010 and 2018 Games, said knee and back issues had lingered, forcing him to pull out of competitions and miss training.

"It's this and it's that, all these things are major things that brought me to this conclusion," he said, adding that other riders' tricks were getting "heavier and heavier".

White said he had decided to retire recently, during a quiet moment when he got lost and had to take a chairlift over an empty mountain by himself.

"I was watching... the sun go down and it just hit me," he said.

"It was very sad and a surreal moment but really joyous as well," said White, adding that he "broke down" a little before calling his friends and family to tell them of his decision.

White is one of the oldest members of the United States snowboarding team. He said he was still in Beijing to compete, explaining that he had been visualising the runs he would put down during his event next Friday.

White will face an ever-younger field of competitors hungry to challenge his dominance in the sport, including Japan's Ayumu Hirano, 23, who beat the Californian at the Laax Open last month.

Australian Scotty James, another of his rivals, said White was leaving behind a meaningful legacy with his retirement.

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Reporting by Mari Saito; editing by Clare Fallon

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