WNBA star Liz Cambage out of Olympics, cites mental health

7/16/2021 11:27:30 AM EST

Las Vegas Aces star Liz Cambage announced she won't play for Team Australia in the Tokyo Olympics, citing concern for her 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, I'm a long way from where I want and need to be," Cambage, 29, tweeted early Friday. "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."

Cambage's announcement comes at a time when the mental health of athletes has moved to the forefront. Naomi Osaka, the world's No.2-ranked women's tennis player, pulled out of the French Open and Wimbledon for the same reason.

A 6-foot-8 center, Cambage is averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Aces.

She is a two-time Olympian. In the 2012 London Games, she became the first woman ever to dunk in Olympic competition, and Team Australia won the bronze medal. She also played for the Opals in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

"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."

Cambage's statement did not mention a reported altercation she had during a private scrimmage against Nigeria this week, which The Weekend Australian said "resulted in heated verbal abuse of her opponents."

Chef de mission Ian Chesterman of the Australian team addressed Cambage's withdrawal in a statement to the publication.

"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," he 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 an incredibly strong team to this campaign."

She also didn't mention a return to the Aces (15-6) after the monthlong Olympics hiatus in her statement. The team is in second place in the WNBA standings.

--Field Level Media

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