Katie Ledecky, Jim Thorpe named Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

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President Joe Biden named sports icons Katie Ledecky and Jim Thorpe among the 19 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday.

Ledecky, the most decorated women’s swimmer in history, has won seven Olympic gold medals and 21 world championship gold medals. She holds the record for men and women for the most individual gold medals at the world championships with 16. Ledecky is slated to compete for the United States at the Paris Olympics this summer.

Thorpe, who died in 1953, was the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal for the U.S. A multi-sport athlete, Thorpe won two Olympic golds in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm — one in decathlon and one in pentathlon. He also played professional football, baseball and basketball.

Thorpe is among three honorees to posthumously receive the medal, along with former civil rights leader Medgar Evers and former New Jersey Senator Frank R. Lautenberg.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is considered the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is presented to individuals “who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” an announcement from the White House said.

Other awardees this year include Michelle Yeoh (the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for best actress) and astronaut Ellen Ochoa (the first Hispanic woman in space and the second woman to serve as director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center). Politicians, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Vice President Al Gore and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are also recipients.

The awards will be presented at the White House on Friday.

Gymnast Simone Biles and U.S. women’s national team forward Megan Rapinoe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022.

(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

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