Las Vegas Aces and Australian national team star Liz Cambage announced in a statement Thursday night that she will be withdrawing from competing in the Olympics, citing mental health reasons stemming from the "bubble" environment that will be created at the Olympics in Tokyo that will require strict health and safety protocols for all athletes and participants.
Cambage's withdrawal follows late Thursday news of an altercation she was involved in during a behind-closed-doors scrimmage against Nigeria this week, according to a report from Olgun Uluc of ESPN. The Australian basketball team was investigating the situation, and put her status for the Olympics in jeopardy.
In Cambage's statement announcing her stepping down from the Australian team, she noted the personal struggles she's been dealing with recently that have led to her decision to step away from the national team.
"Anyone that knows me knows one of my biggest dreams is winning an Olympic gold medal with the Opals. Every athletes 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. 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."
Australian Olympic Committee Chief Ian Chesterman said the committee respected Cambage's decision to withdraw from the competition.
"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."
Cambage and the Australian national team have been training in Las Vegas for their pre-Olympics training camp. Earlier in the week she attended, but did not participate in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game, which was also held in Vegas. Cambage was a selection for Team WNBA, but decided to sit out after suffering a minor hip injury in a practice with Australia.
In 19 games for the Aces this season, Cambage is putting up 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. With Cambage and reigning MVP A'ja Wilson forming an elite frontcourt partnership, the Aces enter the Olympic break with the second-best record in the league at 15-6.
On the national level, Cambage has been representing Australia since 2008. One of the best players in the country's history, she helped them to a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics -- where she made history as the first woman to dunk in the Olympics -- and a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup. Losing her for the Olympics is a significant blow to an Australian team looking for a medal finish in Tokyo.