News & Politics

You Must Remember…Melissa Belote Ripley

The Springfield native won three gold medals in Munich when she was 15.

Photograph by Steve Craft

“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.”

Executive Editor

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.