Australian Opals star Liz Cambage has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health reasons, the Australian Olympic Committee confirmed on Friday [AEST].
It follows news from Friday morning that the Opals were discussing her future with the team after an incident that occurred during a closed-door scrimmage.
Cambage was involved in a physical altercation during a closed warm-up game against Nigeria, sources told ESPN, as well as a charged verbal exchange
In a statement, Cambage announced she would be stepping down from the team so that she could focus on her wellbeing and mental health.
“Anyone that knows me knows one of my biggest dreams is winning an Olympic gold medal with the Opals. Every athlete competing in the Olympic games should be at their mental and physical peak, and at the moment,” Cambage said.
“I’m a long way from where I want and need to be. It’s no secret that in the past I’ve struggled with my mental health and recently I’ve been really worried about heading into a “bubble” Olympics. No family. No friends. No fans. No support system outside of my team. It’s honestly terrifying for me. The past month I have been having panic attacks, not sleeping and not eating.
“Relying on daily medication to control my anxiety is not the place I want to be right now. Especially walking into competition on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“I know myself, and I know I can’t be the Liz everyone deserves to see compete for the Opals. Not right now at least. I need to take care of myself mentally and physically.
“It breaks my heart to announce I’m withdrawing from the Olympics, but I think it’s best for the Opals and myself. I wish them nothing but the best of luck in Tokyo and I hope they go forth and win a gold medal. Love and light.”
It was alleged that the four-time WNBA All-Star also broke team protocols to go out in Las Vegas, where she plays with the Aces in the WNBA, and is believed to have been involved in a third incident.
AOC chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said the committee understood and respected her decision to step away from the team just days out from the start of the Games.
“Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic Team over two Olympic Games campaigns. We respect her decision and wish her the best in returning to full health,” Chesterman said.
“Our focus now moves to working with the Opals so they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves in Tokyo. We know they are totally committed to achieving success in Tokyo and they will still bring a incredibly strong team to this campaign.”
The Opals, Australia’s women’s basketball team, have been in Las Vegas for their pre-Olympic training camp. They’re scheduled to played the USA in a warm-up game on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET Friday in the U.S.).
Cambage, 29, is the team’s most prolific player, averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Las Vegas Aces during the 2021 WNBA season. She was named a 2021 WNBA All-Star.
The AOC will explore the potential for a late replacement for Cambage in the Opals team.