WNBA star Liz Cambage withdraws from Tokyo Olympics citing mental health

Roxanna Scott

TOKYO — Australia’s Olympic medal hopes took a hit Friday as star player Liz Cambage withdrew from the women’s basketball team a week before the opening ceremony, citing her struggle with mental health heading into the Olympic bubble.

Cambage, a center for the Las Vegas Aces, is a standout player for the Australian national team who averaged 23.5 points and 10.3 rebounds at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She won an Olympic bronze medal with the Opals in 2012.

"Anyone that knows me knows one of my biggest dreams is winning an Olympic gold medal with the Opals," Cambage wrote on Twitter on Friday. "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. 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."

Liz Cambage has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics, where she was expected to be a key player for Australia.

Australian Olympic officials were asked Friday morning at a news conference about Cambage's status with the team after an ESPN report citing unnamed sources that she had been involved in an altercation with a Nigerian player in a closed-door scrimmage. Chef de mission Ian Chesterman said the Australian Olympic Committee was awaiting a report from basketball officials but he described Cambage's potential absence as being related to health and fitness.

She was named to the WNBA All-Star team that beat the U.S. Olympic team on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Cambage dressed but did not play.

Strict COVID-19 protocols for the Tokyo Games will keep athletes in a bubble where they are restricted to the Olympic Village and the venues where the train and compete. Officials announced last week that no fans will be allowed at competition venues.

Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the Olympics earlier this month saying he wanted to take time to get healthy and wasn't interested in playing without spectators in the stands. "The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has," he said.

Australian tennis player tests positive

Cambage’s withdrawal was another blow to the Australian Olympic team, which announced earlier in the day that tennis player Alex de Minaur tested positive for COVID-19 before his departure and wouldn’t be competing in Tokyo.

De Minaur was scheduled to fly to Japan on July 18 from his base in Spain. The Australian Olympic Committee said it was hopeful that the ITF would allow De Minaur’s doubles partner, John Peers, to play in the Olympic tournament with a different partner. De Minaur is ranked No. 17 in the world.

U.S. men’s basketball game vs. Australia canceled

Hours after Bradley Beal was ruled out of the Olympics due to health and safety protocols, USA Basketball announced its exhibition game against Australia scheduled for Friday night had been called off.

USA Basketball cited "an abundance of caution" in making the decision Thursday night. The U.S. women’s game against Australia will be played as scheduled Friday in Las Vegas.

Contributing: Associated Press