Three-time Olympian and former world record-holder in the mile Jim Ryun will become only the second track and field athlete ever to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony, today. Ryun will receive an award that is the "Nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Jesse Owens is the only track and field athlete to have previously received the prestigious award (1976).

One of the greatest middle-distance runners in United States history, Ryun first burst onto the national scene as a prep athlete from Wichita East High School in Kansas when he finished third at the 1964 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1,500m and qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He had earlier become the first high schooler to break four minutes in the mile with a 3:59.0 at the California Relays, and his 3:55.3 in '65 stood as the national prep record until Alan Webb broke it in 2001.
As a University of Kansas student, Ryun set two world records in the mile, clocking 3:51.3 at the All-American Invitational in Berkeley, California in 1966 and 3:51.1 to win the AAU Championships at Bakersfield, California in 1967, and added a 1,500m WR of 3:33.1 at the USA vs. Commonwealth meet in Los Angeles in '67.
He also set a world record for 880 yards in 1966, covering two laps in 1:44.9 at Terre Haute, Indiana, and was named the Sullivan Award winner that year as the nation's top amateur athlete.
At the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968, Ryun claimed silver in the 1,500m with a 3:37.8, and he made his third Olympic appearance at Munich in '76, where he fell in the heats and failed to advance.
Ryun won three straight AAU mile titles from 1965-67 and a pair of Olympic Trials 1,500m golds in 1968 and 1972. He was the 1967 NCAA mile champion and was elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1980.
Now 73-years-old, Ryun was elected to represent the 2nd District of Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 and he served the district as a congressman until 2007.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.