“To Have Dinner With President and Mrs. Nixon Was Interesting”
—Melissa Belote Ripley
Ripley, a Springfield native, was a backstroke phenom who, at age 15, won three gold medals at the 1972 Olympics. Now 58 and living in Arizona, she has spent 35 years as a club and high-school swim coach.
“My parents bought the 100th house in Springfield. They had barely moved in when some-one came by and asked if they wanted to buy a share in a pool that hadn’t been built yet. So we belonged to the Springfield Swimming & Racquet Club. I was eight when I started swimming. . . . [After I won my gold medals,] I got a personal invitation from President and Mrs. Nixon to go to the White House for dinner. We talked about 15-year-old-kid stuff. About movies. Remember, Nixon was in the thick of Watergate. To have dinner with President and Mrs. Nixon then was interesting.”