WASHINGTON — On Friday, President Donald Trump awarded former Olympic runner and ex-Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It’s the nation’s top civilian award. Ryun said the honor is unimaginable.
“It’s difficult to believe it all began with a simple prayer in junior high,” Ryun said.
Nicknamed the “master of the mile,” Ryun rose to national fame when he was the first ever to run a mile in under four minutes in high school.
He later set the world record for the mile in 1967 and took home a silver medal in the 1500 at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
“He’s a giant of American athletics a dedicated public servant and a man of charity and generosity and faith he’s a great man,” Trump said. “That’s not bad for a guy who couldn’t make his baseball team.”
Ryun said he was a failure at sports.
“I was cut from all of them when I was in junior, basketball church baseball team,” Ryun said.
That was before he found his calling on the track.
Ryun joins other athletes like Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods who have also received the prestigious title.
“To be considered among some them is a great privilege,” he said.
Ryun was joined by close friends and family. His daughter and son describe him as a humble man of integrity who has dedicated his life to public service on and off the field.
But Ryun said he couldn’t have done it alone.
“The achievements the accolades you don’t get here without a lot of help from other people,” he said.
Ryun went on to serve as a member of the House representing a Kansas congressional district from 1996 to 2006.
He now spends his days motivating others.
“Dream big,” he said. “Doing great dreams take risk at the time.”