TEHRAN — After their national team's resounding victory over the U.S. team Thursday in the Wrestling World Cup held in Tehran, Iranians throughout the country erupted in celebration.
Although several of the matches between American and Iranians wrestlers were quite tense, the spirit of sportsmanship was on full display throughout the event. The theme of the week, rather than politics, was both nations’ shared goal of keeping wrestling in the Olympic games.
The U.S. team took third place in the tournament, and Iran ultimately prevailed over Russia in the freestyle competition to win gold.
Once it become clear that Iran had secured its victory, by taking a fourth win in the best-of-seven format, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and an entourage appeared in the stadium.
After congratulations and presenting the medals to his nation’s team (along with approximately $8,000 in prize money to each wrestler), he made his way to the U.S. squad to congratulate its members and pose with them for photos, one of them captured by the state-run Mehr News.
Some Iranians, excited and proud about the win, used the moment as an opportunity to make light of the difficulties their country faces.
Mohsen, a 26 year old office worker, flexed his bicep and joked, “You think if you sanction us we’ll lose? Like they say: Sanctions have no effect on us!”
The event represented a very rare occasion that the American flag could be seen on public display, unmolested, in Iran.