Cambage quits Olympics over health concerns

UPDATE: Opals star Elizabeth Cambage has withdrawn from the team for the Tokyo Olympics citing health reasons.

Basketball Australia and the Australian Olympic Commission confirmed the news this afternoon.

“Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic Team over two Olympic Games campaigns,” AOC’s Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said in a statement.

“We respect her decision and wish her the best in returning to full health.

“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.”

In a statement, Cambage “wished the team well” as she focuses on her 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,” she 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,” she concluded.

Earlier today it was revealed Basketball Australia was investigating an incident with Cambage that was believed to have taken place during a closed warm-up match against Nigeria in Las Vegas, ahead of the Opals’ quest for gold at the Tokyo Games.

ESPN reported that there was a “charged verbal exchange” as well as a “physical altercation” which prompted “discussions regarding the 6-foot-8 veteran centre’s “potential removal” from the Opals for the Olympics.

Chesterman then confirmed at a press conference in Tokyo that there was a probe underway on the matter, but was unable to provide further details on the “incident”.

The Opals are currently based in Las Vegas in the States, where Cambage plays for the Aces in the WNBA. The Boomers and several other international basketball teams are also in camps in Vegas before heading to Tokyo for the Olympics.

According to News Corp, Cambage was facing further scrutiny for breaking the Opals COVID-19 protocols by going out in Sin City.

The 29-year-old was seen in attendance at the WNBA All-Star game overnight, after earning her fourth All-Star nod following a huge season with the Aces where she averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds over 19 games.

She did not play in the All-Star game however after a knock at Opals training. Instead she cheered on her WNBA peers courtside, and was snapped on the red carpet.

“Thank you to all the fans, coaches and ladies of the league who voted me in for my fourth All-Star,” Cambage said on Instagram yesterday.

“I was so sad I wasn’t able to play after pulling up sore after a hard week of practice with my Australian team, but I’m just so grateful that I was still able to be a part of such a surreal event and be surrounded by so many GOATS of the game on the same day.

“I was there for all of the hugs, all the hype and a lil hunger.”

In between training for the upcoming Games, the Aussie women’s basketball team have attended some warm-up games for their male counterparts, including the Boomers and Team USA, which have been rocked by a positive COVID-19 test to American star Bradley Beal.

As the Opals’ most high-profile and influential player, Cambage’s exclusion from the squad is a massive blow to Australia’s Olympic campaign.

Ranked second in the FIBA rankings behind the USA, the Opals are considered major gold medal contenders in Tokyo.

It also leaves the Opals a player short for Tokyo, with Cambage one of just 11 named for the Olympics with no reserve emergency players.

“The AOC will explore the potential for a late replacement for Liz Cambage in the Opals Team,” Basketball Australia said in a statement addressing the Opals star’s withdrawal.

The Opals are scheduled to play another warm-up game against the USA women’s team on the weekend, while the Boomers’ warm-up match against the USA men’s team has been cancelled due to health and safety protocols.

If you or anyone you know needs immediate support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or via lifeline.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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