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President Trump awards Medal of Freedom to breakthrough athlete and former congressman Jim Ryun

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 3:47 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - He’s been coined the “Master of the Mile.” Jim Ryun is an Olympic medalist and former U.S Congressman.

Friday, the Kansas native received the highest civilian honor in Washington; The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a junior at Wichita East High School, Ryun became the first athlete to break a 4-minute mile. He ran in three Olympics and took home a silver medal in 1968, but he says he wasn’t always on track for success.

“I was cut from the junior high basketball team; I couldn’t make the junior high track and field team. So, I’d go to bed a night and I’d say, ‘Dear God, life isn’t what I hoped it would be. I know you have a plan for me. By the way, if you could show up in sports, I would appreciate it,” said Ryun. “And, boy did he show up.”

Years later Ryun strode confidently into politics, serving for ten years in Congress representing Kansas’s 2nd district.

Ryun’s accomplishments on the track and on Capitol Hill were celebrated by President Trump at a ceremony inside of the White House, Friday.

“Jim, thank you so much for your unfailing devotion to our country and congratulations on a lifetime of incredible success,” said President Trump.

The Gray Television Washington News Team asked Ryun why he thought he was receiving the award; was it because of his athletic achievements or his political service?

“I can’t give you an exact answer,” said Ryun. “I’m just honored to receive it.”

Humbly, Ryun thanked his former coaches and family for the honor. Those following in his footsteps, like current Congressman Ron Estes of Kansas, say it’s his humility that sets him apart.

“It’s not something he would seek-out or brag about,” said Congressman Estes. “It’s wonderful he’s being recognized.”

During his speech at the event, Ryun reflected about his pivotal moments during his athletic career; the wind in his face, the wings on his feet, and the applause and cheers.

“Don’t be afraid to try and take risks,” he said. “Ask God to help you and be ready for the adventure.”

As he puts it, his secret for speed and success are one and the same.

According to the White House, The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made contributions to the United States, to world peace, or to cultural endeavors.

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