USA Wrestling has officially confirmed that Russia will not be sending a team to the 2018 World Cup in Iowa City, Iowa, scheduled for next weekend. Russia reportedly encountered difficulties in obtaining visas for its participants, with both Russia's late submission of its visa applications and the understaffed U.S. Embassy in Moscow being stated as reasons for the team's absence from the tournament.
Occurring in the background to these events is the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Russia in the West after the poisoning of a British spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in early March.
India and Mongolia have accepted invitations to wrestle in Russia's and Iran's places. Iran had previously committed to wrestle in the World Cup after original invitee Turkey backed out. The top eight teams from the previous year's World Championships are automatically invited to the subsequent year's World Cup.
Iran later backed out of the competition, supposedly after a row with UWW over the former's refusal to allow Iran to change the date of the Greco-Roman World Cup, although no official reason for Iran's refusal has been released.
The official press release from USA Wrestling is posted below.
USA Wrestling and the organizing committee for the Freestyle World Cup in Iowa City have received confirmation from contacts in U.S. Congress that the issues affecting the Russian wrestling team’s participation in the Freestyle World Cup will not be resolved.
The World Cup is the annual international dual meet championship, and will be held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at the University of Iowa, April 7-8.
An inquiry by Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley was answered by the Consular Section of the Embassy of the United States of America in Moscow, Russia.
In this response, it was reported to Senator Grassley that:
“Due to the staffing reduction forced on the U.S. Mission in Russia by the Russian Federation, there is very limited appointment availability for visa interviews at this time. In the current situation, the Embassy is not able to provide expedited appointments for sporting events.”
The lateness of the visa request by the Russian Wrestling Federation was a factor in the inability of the U.S. Embassy to grant expedited appointments for the team, according to the response.
In anticipation that the Russian team may not be able to attend, USA Wrestling has invited two major freestyle wrestling powers, Mongolia and India, to participate in the event. The visa process for both national teams has begun.
“It is extremely unfortunate that Russia will not be able to compete at the Freestyle World Cup this year. With the reality of this situation, USA Wrestling is pleased that the wrestling federations of Mongolia and India have responded to support the World Cup and are making plans to be here for the event. We will have an outstanding competition showcasing international wrestling in Iowa City next weekend, and we are excited to host those nations that will be attending,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.
USA Wrestling will provide complete updates on the composition of the new delegations, the changes to the competition schedule and other important information as it becomes available.