Racing days over for Thorpe

Ian Thorpe (File)
Ian Thorpe (File)

Sydney - Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe was battling serious infections on Wednesday in a Sydney hospital following shoulder surgery, his manager said, adding he would likely never swim competitively again.

James Erskine said Thorpe was unlucky to have fallen ill after shoulder surgery in Australia, but dismissed reports the 31-year-old, five-time Olympic gold medallist would lose the use of his left arm.

"That's just conjecture by press. At the end of the day he's got an infection and like all these things, they have to be treated seriously," Erskine told the ABC, adding that Thorpe was not in intensive care.

"Although it's serious, no one's talked to him about possibly not being able to use his arm or whatever."

Erskine said Thorpe had broken his shoulder in a fall in Australia some months ago and the swimmer known as the "thorpedo" would not be resuming his career in the pool.

"He smashed his shoulder. I don't know exactly what parts of shoulder he broke, but all I can tell you is I have seen the X-rays and the plates and the pins that are in there - he looks like the bionic man," Erskine told ABC television.

"He can hardly get out of bed to have a piddle. The answer is no, he's not going to be back to competitive swimming.

"He's not going to be in the Commonwealth Games and he's not thinking about returning for the next Olympics."

Thorpe retired in 2006 after a glittering career in which he ruled the pool from 1998 to 2004, taking nine Olympic medals and 11 world titles and setting 13 long course world records.

He returned to racing in 2011 in Singapore but had a string of disappointing results leading up to his ultimately unsuccessful London Olympic bid the following year.

After the London Games, in which he commentated for the BBC, Thorpe had not ruled out aiming for the Rio Games in 2016.

But his friend, Australian radio personality Alan Jones, said the shoulder injury had ended hopes of a return.

"Well, that was never on anyway, so his swimming days are over," Jones said. "Ian's getting himself better."

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

In February this year he began treatment for depression after a mixture of painkillers and anti-depressants left him disoriented on a Sydney street.

Erskine said the shoulder injury occurred before Thorpe entered rehab, and the former swimmer had several operations to attempt to correct it, subsequently catching an infection.

He dismissed reports that Thorpe fell ill after undergoing surgery at a hospital near his home in the Swiss town of Ronco sopra Ascona, saying he had not left Australia at the time.

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