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Olympics: Australia basketball's Liz Cambage withdraws, cites mental health

Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, citing mental health concerns. Photo by Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons
Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, citing mental health concerns. Photo by Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons

July 16 (UPI) -- Liz Cambage, the top player on the Australian Women's National Team, withdrew from the Olympics on Friday to address her mental health, the Las Vegas Aces center and Australian Olympic Committee announced.

"Anyone that knows me knows one of my biggest dreams is winning an Olympic gold medal with the [Australian] Opals," Cambage wrote on social media.

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"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."

Cambage wrote about her past "struggles with mental health" and said she is worried about the Olympic "bubble." No family, friends or fans are allowed to attend events and support the athletes in Tokyo due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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"It's honestly terrifying for me," Cambage wrote. "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."

Sources told The Athletic and ESPN on Thursday that Cambage was involved in physical and verbal altercations during a closed practice game against Nigeria earlier this week. The Australian Olympic Committee said Basketball Australia is investigating the incident.

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Cambage, 29, averaged 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Las Vegas Aces in the first half of the 2021 WNBA season. The Australian Olympic Committee said it will "explore" the potential for a late replacement for the four-time WNBA All-Star on the National Team roster.

"Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic Team over two Olympic Games campaigns," Australian Olympic Committee vice president Ian Chesterman said in a news release. "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,"

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The Australian women's team will face Team USA in another warm-up exhibition game at 2:30 p.m. EDT Friday in Las Vegas.

Australia will battle Belgium in a preliminary game at the Tokyo Olympics at 4:20 a.m. EDT July 27 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Notable Olympians returning to Summer Games

Simone Biles stands on the floor after winning the gold medal in the floor exercise at the Olympic Arena of the Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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