WNBA star Liz Cambage has withdrawn from the Australian Olympic Team so she can take time to focus on her mental health.
According to CNN, Cambage explained her decision in a series of posts across Instagram and Twitter. “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,” Cambage wrote in a statement posted to social media. “No family. No friends. No fans. No support system outside of my team. It’s honestly terrifying for me. The past month I’ve been having panic attacks, not sleeping and not eating.”
“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,” she added.
Cambage, a 2021 WNBA All-Star and player for the Las Vegas Aces, has averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game throughout the current season. She’s been outspoken about the lack of diversity in the promotional material for the Australian Olympic Team, and threatened to boycott the team last May.
I can only imagine the pressure that comes with having to compete at the highest level. The isolation and extensive protocols needed to compete during a global pandemic obviously doesn’t help things. When the NBA utilized a “bubble” last year for the Finals, we heard how deeply the isolation affected the mental health of the athletes. The Tokyo Olympics will be held under similar circumstances, with no fans in attendance, as Japan is dealing with a surge in coronavirus transmissions.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) released a statement confirming Cambage’s withdrawal and said they will explore finding a replacement for Cambage before the Olympics start on July 23.
“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,” Ian Chesterman, Chef de Mission of the AOC, said in a statement.
In recent months we’ve seen athletes like Naomi Osaka withdraw from large sporting events in order to focus on their mental health. I’m glad we’re seeing more athletes prioritize their mental wellbeing. At the end of the day, it’s still just a game, and no game is worth putting your wellbeing at risk.