Opals veteran Lauren Jackson says the Australian side moved on from the Liz Cambage saga ahead of Thursday’s FIBA World Cup opener against France in Sydney.
Jackson, 41, will come off the bench in the team’s first game of the tournament after a rigorous six-month regimen to rid the former WNBA star of his “retirement body.”
Jackson’s selection to play at the FIBA World Cup represents one of the biggest comebacks in Australian sport, after chronic knee injuries forced her to retire from international duty in 2013.
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Cambage decided to retire from the WNBA in August and also withdrew from the Opals ahead of the Tokyo Games after being accused of using a racial slur in a warm-up match against Nigeria.
“In terms of culture, they’ve worked hard since their quarter-final loss at the Tokyo Olympics and I’ve never come across a team so close to each other,” Jackson said.
“I’m not sure what happened with the whole Liz (Cambage) thing, to be honest – nobody talks about it and everyone’s moved on.
“They are a team that take care of each other off the pitch, and on the pitch it has been physical.
“I was scared going into that first training camp, the girls were from a much younger generation but they embraced me from day one.”
Why Liz Cambage Left Opals
The seven-time WNBA All Star returned to play for the NBL1 Albury-Wodonga team this year, playing home games at a stadium named in his honor, while averaging 32 points per game in his first year on the court since 2016.
Jackson said her own quest to get the most out of her body over her career was not only derailed by injury, but also by a lack of research into the female body.
“Female bodies have definitely suffered from lack of knowledge,” Jackson said.
“The standard for research has always been the male athlete…we haven’t seen sports science address female issues like the menstrual cycle that adds an extra layer of complexity to performance,” Jackson said.
“The problem with that is trying to translate existing research – based on men – to women.
“I have suffered a lot from endometriosis throughout my career; a lot of women suffer from it, but we don’t talk about it and we just keep going…but I think it’s going to be amazing when we come to understand, accept and really support female athletes.
“This will be the time for women’s sport.
“True fairness has many facets. Visibility is important, resources, facilities…and now research. So I think there’s an argument that we haven’t seen any women from any sport in its best – because it hasn’t been backed by science.”
Although she put up some impressive numbers on her return to the field, the Opals great approached a sports psychologist before returning, conscious testing times awaited her.
“I guess that’s how you react,” she said.
“For me, I’ve always had a pretty positive outlook. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other.
“It doesn’t matter what happened. You just have to go out there and keep going.”
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