Liz Cambage pulls out of Australia’s Olympic team for Tokyo

BRISBANE, (AP) — WNBA star Liz Cambage has withdrawn from Australia’s Olympic women’s basketball team because of the anxiety she’s feeling about living and competing inside the restrictive bubble in place for the Tokyo Games.

Cambage posted a statement on social media Friday to say the prospect of having no friends, no family, no fans and no support system outside of the team during the Olympics is “honestly terrifying for me.”

“It breaks my heart to announce I’m withdrawing from the Olympics,” she said, “but I think it’s best for the Opals and myself.”

The 29-year-old Las Vegas Aces center said for the last month she’d 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,” she said in the statement. “Especially walking into competition on the world’s biggest sporting stage.”

The Tokyo Olympics, already delayed by 12 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are set to start July 29. Athletes and officials will not be allowed outside of their accommodation or competition or training venues. The government has banned fans from attending most Olympic venues because of the rising COVID-19 cases around the Japanese capital.

Cambage, who has been with the Australian team in Las Vegas for the last week for warmup games, said she needed to “take care of myself mentally and physically.”

She was in uniform for the WNBA All-Star team against the U.S. Olympic team on Wednesday, but didn’t play in her team’s 93-85 win.

The Australian Olympic Committee on Friday said it was exploring the potential for a late replacement for Cambage, who won an Olympic bronze medal at London in 2012 and was among the stars of the team at the 2016 Games.

“Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic team over two Olympic Games campaigns,” Ian Chesterman, the Australian Olympic delegation leader in Tokyo, said in a statement. “We respect her decision and wish her the best in returning to full health.”

In her statement, Cambage said that anyone who knew her 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. 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. ”