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Former Olympian, Congressman Jim Ryun to receive Medal of Freedom

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 6:37 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A groundbreaking track athlete and former Kansas Congressman will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Jim Ryun will accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony July 24, 2020. He told 13 NEWS he is humbled by the honor.

Ryun became the first high school athlete to break the four-minute mark in the mile, when he was a junior at Wichita East High School. He went on to run in three Olympics, winning a silver medal in 1968. Along the way, he set several world records. After his running career, Ryun served 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, first elected in 1996.

Ryun says he did not start out as a star athlete. In fact, he was cut from all the junior high sports teams. He said he prayed to God to show him a path - and that he’d appreciate if it happened to be in athletics.

“Failure is really a temporary detour to success,” Ryun said. “If you don’t see exactly what you want at that moment, give it some time, pray, keep working, see where you can go. I would never have imagined that my career became what it was and that, here we are now, on July 24, 2020, I will be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Ryun said he shares the honor with all those who supported him along the way, particularly his wife Anne, his children, and Coach Bob Timmons, who he said pushed him to have a better attitude and explore his own goals. He said any success is never one’s own, adding that when he goes to a track meet now, he often seeks out the timers, lane judges, and other support workers, without whom there would not be a meet.

Ryun said he is hopeful the U.S. will make a return to dominance in middle-distance running. As for the current sports climate dominated by COVID-related shutdowns, he said it can teach athletes lessons in patience, and focusing on their goals.

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