Panic attacks; Cambage out of Olympics

·2-min read

The Opals' assault on Tokyo gold is in disarray after Liz Cambage quit Australia's Olympic basketball team citing mental health concerns.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) announced the shock news on Friday after superstar centre Cambage withdrew, revealing she'd been experiencing panic attacks about going into the Olympic bubble in Tokyo.

"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," the 29-year-old said in a statement.

"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.

"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."

Cambage withrawal came after reports that she was involved in on and off-court incidents which upset her Australian teammates and also allegedly left the team camp in Las Vegas in breach of team protocols.

The reports prompted Basketball Australia to begin looking into the matter.

The Opals won three consecutive silver medals between 2000-2008 as well as two bronze Olympic medals, but finished fifth in Rio five years ago.

Ranked No.2 in the world, they were a legitimate shot at gold in Tokyo with Cambage leading a deep roster boasting five others currently playing in the WNBA.

But without the four-time WNBA All-Star, who at 203cm offered an irreplaceable presence close to the rim at both ends of the court, they now lack the size, physicality and offensive arsenal they hoped would test the United States, who are seeking a seventh consecutive gold medal.

Coach Sandy Brondello will at least have one dry run to re-imagine her game plan, with the Opals due to play the US in an exhibition game in Las Vegas on Saturday (AEST) before heading to Japan.

"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," Australia's Games team boss Ian Chesterman said.

"Our focus now moves to working with the Opals so they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves in Tokyo. "

The AOC will explore the potential for a late replacement for Cambage in the Opals team.

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