Sports

Russian athletes will not attend Iowa City's wrestling World Cup

Embassy blames limited staffing, appointments after Russia expels diplomats

Wrestlers compete in the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, April 10, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Wrestlers compete in the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Sunday, April 10, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Russian wrestlers won’t be among those competing this week in Iowa City’s wrestling World Cup event.

In a letter sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow blamed actions of the Russian government for limiting the diplomatic staff available to conduct interviews with the wrestlers for travel visas.

“We simply received too many such requests at a time of very limited appointment availability,” according to the letter. “Wait times have grown significantly longer than they were before the reduction of our staff, and could be many months.”

Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that the United States not scheduling the interviews was “direct and open discrimination,” the Associated Press reported.

Last week began with President Donald Trump expelling 60 Russian diplomats and closing a diplomatic facility on the West Coast in response to the poisoning of a nerve agent attack on former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter last month in Britain.

Russia responded by expelling 60 American diplomats and closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, according to the Washington Post.

The United World Wrestling Senior Men’s Freestyle Wrestling World Cup is an eight-team tournament scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Traditionally, the eight best national teams in the world compete during the freestyle World Cup. But because Russia and Iran are both not competing, USA Wrestling invited India and Mongolia.

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“Both teams are very excited to be here. We’ve been in regular communication with them and it’ll be an exciting World Cup nonetheless,” said Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Schamberger earlier said Iran would not send a team because of disagreements between it and the world wrestling governing body.

Schamberger said he was disappointed when heard that Russia would not make it to the World Cup, but said he not surprised given how late Russia was to applying for the visa interviews. The letter said the interviews could not be approved in the “requested time frame of 72 hours.”

Teams planning to compete include Cuba, Japan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, in addition to the United States.

Schamberger has said he expects between 8,000 and 10,000 to attend the competition.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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