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Lodian vs. The Governator

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Posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2006 10:00 pm

For Byng Forsberg, he's never met a challenge he couldn't handle.

At 80 years young, the slim, silver-haired Lodian is more active than most 20 year olds.

Whether it's cross-country skiing, snowshoe racing, track and field, in-line skating, or table tennis - the sport which earned him induction into the Lodi Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 - Forsberg has been a dominant force on the senior circuit, winning various local and national Senior Games competitions.

Now, the man who plans to live deep into his 100s - and break athletic records in the process - faces arguably his greatest challenge yet: The Governator.

After spotting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a magazine posing with table tennis players, Forsberg decided to write him a letter stating that he'd pitch $100 toward his reelection campaign if he'd be willing to play him in a game of pingpong.

And yes, the governor has accepted.

"The governor doesn't condone 'pay to play,' however he has accepted Mr. Forsberg's challenge to a game of pingpong," said Matt Davis, a spokesman for the governor's office. "(He) thought it'd be fun."

Davis says the match will likely be held in late August or September and played in the Lodi-Stockton area. A possible venue could be one of the town's high school gymnasiums.

"Whether or not we're selling tickets, I doubt it," Davis joked.

Asked about Schwarzenegger's pingpong prowess, Davis said: "Let's just say the governor's definitely going to be the underdog in this contest."

As for Forsberg, who began playing table tennis in 1947, he's excited about the opportunity.

"I look forward to having the match with the governor," Forsberg said. "It'd be more fun than winning the lottery."

Byng Forsberg, a senior table tennis world champion, has challenged California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to a match. The Govenator has accepted and will have quite a challenge. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

Given the governor's accomplishments as a bodybuilder, Forsberg added: "I'll have to take up weightlifting."

During one particular hot stretch from 1996-98, Forsberg racked up 26 gold medals, seven silver medals and eight bronze medals competing in local, regional and national table tennis tournaments.

While Forsberg believes this match will bring more publicity to the game of table tennis, he also sees the governor's appearance in town as a great boost for Lodi's public image.

"To get the governor down here would be good publicity and that's what we (in Lodi) need," Forsberg said. "It's good to do something beneficial for the city since the city's been so good to me living here."

While Schwarzenegger is one of the bigger names in politics, Forsberg may have another political challenger in the works as well.

During a trip to Ecuador last week, Forsberg met Venezuela's minister of culture, Francisco Sesto, and the two discussed setting up a possible pingpong match between the Lodian and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"I said: 'Hey, if you can get Chavez to play a game of table tennis, I'll come back down,'" Forsberg said.

To which Sesto responded: "Well, he's a pretty good sportsman, but he likes to play baseball."

Baseball, you say?

First published: Thursday, August 3, 2006

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