Black women athletes are tired, both mentally and physically. Between the stress of sports and the media, these women are asking for a break from life's stressors and Australian WNBA player Liz Cambage is among the latest to join the movement.
The Las Vegas Aces basketball player announced last Friday (July 16) that she is withdrawing from the Australian Olympic Team and will not be competing in the Tokyo Games because she's prioritizing her physical and mental health. "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," Cambage shared in a statement through Twitter and Instagram posts. "No family. No friends. No fans. No support system outside of my team. It's honestly terrifying for me."
She went on to talk about the recent panic attacks she's been experiencing in the last month, on top of not eating and sleeping properly. "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," she concludes.
Though Cambage will be missing out on this year's Olympics, her team is still searching for a replacement to take her place so they're able to compete. “Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic team over two Olympic Games campaigns,” Ian Chesterman, the Australian Olympic delegation leader in Tokyo, said in a statement. “We respect her decision and wish her the best in returning to full health.”
Cambage has been vocal about the status of her mental health in the past in an effort to help others battling the same issues. "We’re all struggling with something, and it's normal,” she said to Women's Health Magazine in April. “I’m telling my story to inspire others to reach out.” She then shared several tips that describe her positive approach to mental health – which includes finding a meaningful beat through music, reflecting on wins and losses and following the path meant for you.
The WNBA star also opted out of the league's 2020 season when it took place in the Florida bubble and she received backlash for her decision. "The main reason I sat out of the WNBA last season was my mental health," she said in a statement. "I'm not OK in a bubble. I'm not OK playing in front of no fans. Mentally, I'm an escapist. If I have no escape from a situation, it gives me anxiety and I panic. There's definitely no escape except for leaving once you get into Tokyo, and I would not want to do that to my team."
In light of athletes' withdrawals and rising COVID-19 cases, the Tokyo Olympics is still set to commence on July 23 and run until August 8.