Friday Feb 17, 2017
As the US and Iran lock horns over sanctions and missile tests, athletes from the two countries will grapple each other for real Friday in the final of wrestling´s Freestyle World Cup, held in the Islamic republic.
A team of 13 US wrestlers face their Iranian counterparts in the western city of Kermanshah in a sporting event injected with political tension after relations between Tehran and Washington cratered since Donald Trump´s inauguration.
The US team were initially denied visas to compete following Trump´s ban on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
But they were allowed to travel to the tournament after the US ban was halted by a federal court.
"I´m very thankful for the warm reception we received today and even more grateful that this trip was made possible," wrote two-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist Jordan Burroughs, on his Instagram.
"We are very happy to be here in Iran and ready to compete!" he added on an image showing him surrounded by Iranian wrestling fans wielding cellphones at the airport.
The overturning of Trump´s executive order allowed Iran to send most of its teenage archery team to compete in the US last week.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after Iran tested a ballistic missile last month and Washington responded with a raft of new sanctions against individuals and groups linked to its weapons programme.
Trump and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani have also traded barbs after the US leader further raised tensions this month by saying he was putting Tehran "on notice" after its missile launch.
After three days of bouts in the Kurdish-majority city of Kermanshah, the US and Iran will face off from 5 pm (1330 GMT) across eight weight categories.
The Americans will be looking to reverse the result from last year´s competition, in which Iran beat a Russian team to claim the crown on US soil.
Local media reported that wrestling fans were queueing outside the stadium for tickets to the final matches.
Wrestling is a popular sport in the Islamic republic and the World Cup event has been well attended throughout its three days.
"So much love and respect for USA and wrestling here in Kermanshah, Iran," wrote another wrestler, Richard Perry, on Instagram.
"Don´t believe everything you hear or read in the media. Wrestling transcends!!