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U.S. wrestlers still plan to travel for Iran meet

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The executive director of USA Wrestling said Monday that the American team still plans to compete next month in Iran, one of seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily banned from the U.S. by an executive order from President Donald Trump.

USA Wrestling’s Rich Bender told The Associated Press that the Americans have “every intention” of traveling to Kermanshah for the men’s freestyle World Cup on Feb. 16-17. Bender said the U.S. federation been given assurances from the Iranians that special attention is being given to their applications.

The scheduled trip to Iran will be the first major test for U.S. athletes travelling to one of the seven nations affected by Trump’s 90-day ban, issued last week.

“We’re going to respect the laws and orders of those in leadership positions in government and figure out how to embrace those and work with them to secure proper documentation for athletes to come here and us to go there,” Bender said.

Iran’s senior vice president Ishaq Jahangiri, through the official IRNA news agency, said Monday that Trump’s executive order was “illegal, inhumane and against human rights.”

The U.S. and Iran — two of the world’s top wrestling countries — have long found common ground on the mat. The U.S. wrestling team was the first American sports team to compete in Iran in nearly 20 years back in 1998, and the Iranian team has competed in the U.S. 16 times since the 1990s.

“Wrestling has shown a long, rich history of transcending politics and participating despite governmental disagreements,” Bender said. “That’s the beauty of sport and the Olympic movement. It’s about competition, not politics.”

USA Wrestling plans to send 13 wrestlers, two coaches, a referee, a medical staff member, a videographer and other official delegates to Kermanshah, which is in western Iran some 310 miles southwest of Tehran.

The annual World Cups in each discipline are among the most prestigious tournaments in the world. Iran will also host the Greco-Roman World Cup in Tehran in March.

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Watch Danell Leyva splash out of American Ninja Warrior

Danell Leyva
NBC
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Triple Olympic medalist Danell Leyva became the latest gymnast to appear on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior,” splashing out of the “Leaps of Faith” in the latter portion of the course in the Los Angeles City Finals that aired Monday.

Leyva’s full run can be seen at the 44-minute mark here.

Leyva, a 27-year-old who took all-around bronze at the 2012 London Games and then retired with parallel bars and high bar silver in Rio, was cheered on by 2012 Olympic teammates Jonathan Horton and John Orozco. He previously completed the course at the Los Angeles City qualifier.

Horton has tackled ANW five times, according to the broadcast. Other gymnasts to appear on the show included Olympic all-around champions Nastia Liukin and Paul Hamm and, perhaps the show’s most famous competitor, former Towson University athlete Kacy Catanzaro.

Leyva could still make the Las Vegas finals, according to the broadcast.

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MORE: Japan’s gymnastics team for worlds lacks its superstars

Chinese 13-year-olds go 1-2 at diving worlds; U.S. medal drought ends

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Reminiscent of one of its legendary divers, Chinese 13-year-olds took gold and silver in the women’s platform at the world diving championships on Wednesday. Delaney Schnell rallied for bronze, ending a 14-year U.S. medal drought.

Chen Yuxi and Lu Wei, both born in 2005, tallied 439 and 377.8 points, respectively, in Gwangju, South Korea. China is nine for nine in gold medals with four finals left this week. Schnell, who was in fifth place and 1.2 points back of third going into the last dive, ended up with 364.2.

No U.S. woman had earned an individual world platform medal since Laura Wilkinson‘s gold in 2005. Schnell, 20, was sixth at the 2016 Olympic trials and second at the 2017 World trials before placing 27th at her world debut two years ago.

Back in 1991, Chinese 12-year-old Fu Mingxia captured the world title on the platform. A year later, Fu took platform gold in Barcelona and remains the youngest Summer Olympic champion since 1960. Fu went on to win a Chinese record four individual Olympic diving titles.

Lu and Chen represent the next generation of Chinese female divers following the post-Rio retirements of their role model, Chen Ruolin, and Wu Minxia.

China is such a diving factory that it took gold and silver without the Rio Olympic platform champion, Ren Qian, who is not on this year’s world team. Ren, then 15 in Rio, became the youngest Olympic diving gold medalist since Fu.

China, two years after its least successful diving worlds since 2005, is moving closer to sweeping every gold medal at these worlds. They last accomplished the feat in 2011.

Earlier Wednesday, Chinese Xie Siyi (reigning world champion) and Cao Yuan (reigning Olympic champion) qualified first and second into Thursday’s men’s springboard final.

David Boudia, the 2012 U.S. Olympic platform champion, was a strong fourth in his first major international meet since Rio and switching to the springboard. Rio Olympian Michael Hixon also advanced in the 12th and last spot.

NBC Olympic Researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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