Swimmer Ian Thorpe in intensive care

Ian Thorpe. (AFP)

Ian Thorpe. (AFP)

Australia's most decorated Olympian, swimmer Ian Thorpe, has been booked into intensive care with two potentially deadly infections.

Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe is in intensive care in a Sydney hospital after contracting two potentially deadly infections following a series of shoulder operations.

The 31-year-old five-time Olympic gold medallist fell ill after undergoing the surgeries at a hospital near his home in the Swiss town of Ronco sopra Ascona, said the Australian Associated Press (AAP) news agency.

"It's serious but it's not life-threatening," Thorpe's manager James Erskine said. "He's quite sick but that's the situation."

Erskine dismissed reports that the swimmer could lose the use of his arm but said it was unlikely Thorpe would swim competitively again: "From a competitive point of view – he will not be swimming competitively again I don't think."

Thorpe is Australia's most decorated Olympian with five gold medals at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games, with his success attributed partly to his abnormally large feet and hands.

He became the first person to win six gold medals at one world championship, in 2001, among 11 world titles overall – along with 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.

But the demands of a celebrity lifestyle and grinding training saw him quit in 2006 before a failed comeback attempt to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

In February Thorpe began treatment for depression after a mixture of painkillers and anti-depressants left him disoriented on a Sydney street, highlighting the pressures facing elite athletes after retirement. – Sapa-AFP

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