BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – After weeks of feeling so anxious that she could barely sleep or eat, WNBA star Liz Cambage decided the best way to maintain her mental and physical health was to withdraw from the Australian Olympic team.
The two-time Olympian worried about living inside a so-called bubble at the Tokyo Games, which will begin next week in the Japanese capital amid a state of emergency due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Kembaj released a statement on social media on Friday saying that the prospect of not having friends, family, fans, and a support system outside the women’s basketball team during the Olympics “honestly scares me.”
“It breaks my heart when I refuse to participate in the Olympics,” said Cambage, “but I think it’s better for the Opals and myself.”
The lack of a strong center and goal scorer is a major obstacle to Australia’s medal chances in Tokyo.
Cambage made headlines for a dunk at the London Olympics on his way to a bronze medal in 2012. Four years later, she was among the top players in the Olympic tournament, despite Australia’s fifth place.
A 29-year-old from Las Vegas Aces reported that she had had anxiety attacks over the past month and that she did not sleep or eat.
“Relying on daily medication to control my anxiety is not where I want to be right now,” she said in a statement. “Especially taking part in competitions in the largest sports arena in the world.”
The Olympic Games in Tokyo, which have already been postponed 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are set to begin on July 23.
In four days, the Opals will play their first match.
Athletes are not allowed to leave the Olympic Village or competition and training facilities and are encouraged to leave Japan as soon as possible after their competition. Fans were banned from visiting most of the stadiums.
Cambage, who was with the Australian team in Las Vegas for the last week warm-up, said she needed to “take care of herself mentally and physically.”
She wore her WNBA All-Star jersey on Wednesday against the US Olympic team, but did not play in her team’s 93-85 win. Her team beat the Americans 70-67 in an exhibition game on Friday.
Coach Sandy Brondello said the team supports Cambidia’s decision.
“Mental health is a real problem. As long as she is not going to be with us, we are focused on the future, not the past, ”said Brondello.
Brondello said the team is exploring the possibility of replacing Cambaja in the squad. “Hopefully we can get to 12. It’s in the hands of the IOC,” she said. “They usually talk about bodily injury or COVID. Mental health is also a trauma. We cannot allow things that are outside of our hands to disturb us. “
Cambage is not the first Australian athlete to withdraw from the Tokyo Games due to concerns over restrictions. At the beginning of the week, tennis player Nick Kirgios withdrew from participation, citing concerns about his health, the pandemic and the fact that fans will not be allowed into the stadiums.
Cambage said that anyone who knew her knows that “one of my biggest dreams is to win an Olympic gold medal with opals.”
“Every athlete participating in the Olympic Games must be at the peak of their mental and physical development, and at the moment I am very far from what I want and should be,” she said. “It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with my mental health in the past, and lately I’ve been really worried about getting to the Olympics in a bubble. “
AP basketball writer Doug Feinberg contributed from Las Vegas.
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