(IranSportsPress.com | ABC) – Iran on Friday banned U.S. wrestlers from participating in the Freestyle World Cup competition this month in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order forbidding visas for Iranians, the official IRNA news agency reported.
A senior Iranian cleric vowed, meanwhile, that his country would continue its missile program, despite threats from the Trump administration that it was preparing to levy new sanctions.
IRNA quoted Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying a special committee reviewed the case of the U.S. wrestling team and “Eventually the visit by the U.S. freestyle wrestling team was opposed.”
The decision marks the first action taken by Iran in response to Trump’s executive order banning visas for seven Muslim countries. Earlier this week, Iran said it would take retaliatory action.
Ghasemi said the policy of the new U.S. administration left Iran no other choice but to ban the wrestlers.
The competition in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah is scheduled for Feb. 16-17.
USA Wrestling had said it would send a team to the Freestyle World Cup, one of the most prestigious competitions in international wrestling.
U.S. freestyle wrestlers have competed in Iran since the 1998 Takhti Cup in Tehran, which followed an absence of nearly 20 years. Since then, Americans have attended Iran-hosted wrestling competitions 15 times. The American athletes were warmly welcomed by cheerful Iranian spectators and sport centers were packed as they appeared on the mats to compete.
The Iranians, for their part, have made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s.
Wrestling is extremely popular in Iran and is rooted in an ancient practice of combining the sport with other physical education and meditation.