WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday presented one of the nation’s highest civilian honors to Jim Ryun, a former Republican congressman and the first U.S. high schooler to break the 4-minute barrier in running the mile.
Ryun was the 1968 Olympic silver medalist in the 1,500-meter run and is a three-time Olympian. Trump presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House, calling him a “Legendary athlete and legendary runner."
In announcing the award, the White House described Ryun, 73, as one of the most accomplished American runners in history.
Ryun noted that he was cut from several athletic teams as a youth but found his calling while running on the track team at Wichita East High School.
As a 17-year-old junior, he became the first high school athlete to break the 4-minute barrier when he ran it in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. That year, he went on to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1966, the year he smashed the world record in the mile at 3:51.3.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to those who make especially meritorious contributions to the nation.
Ryun went on to serve as a member of the House representing a Kansas congressional district from 1996 to 2006.