It seems that Byng Forsberg's match with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 was just the beginning of the 83-year-old pingpong extraordinaire's political endeavors.
Earlier this month the Lodi resident headed to Venezuela, where he not only got to play table tennis with ambassadors from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba as well as an admiral of the Venezuelan Navy, but also got a chance to chat with the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.
While Forsberg said he just played the ambassadors for fun, he said they had a bit more experience at the game than the Governor. But not enough to keep up with Forsberg.
"We had a good time," Forsberg said. "I kinda took it easy on them, like I did with Arnold."
The pingpong evening even included karaoke. Forsberg said he's not much of a singer, but when the ambassadors turned on "New York, New York" and asked him to take the microphone, he obliged.
"Frank Sinatra turned over in his grave when he heard that one," he said.
Forsberg has many connections with Venezuela. He taught many Venezuelans while instructing a table tennis class at University of the Pacific in the 1970s. He also has many acquaintances who live in the South American country, which he said he's visited half a dozen times.
He had a rare opportunity in his latest trip - a chance to meet Correa. One of Forsberg's former employees, Jamie Sanchez, is a personal aide to the president. His connections opened the door for a meeting and Forsberg couldn't turn it down.
"The Americans aren't highly thought of throughout other countries in the world because of the policies that were generated during the last presidential administration," he said. "… I thought it was a chance for me to improve the American image. That's what I really wanted to do."
Forsberg, who for a day shed his usual table tennis attire and put on a light gray suit with a Cuban-style hat, was able to visit with Correa for about 15 minutes during his trip. They discussed Correa's education at the University of Illinois, Forsberg's connections in South America, playing table tennis with Swarzenegger and even talked about Lodi.
"I told him it's a very nice place in sunny California. All the men are strong, all the women are beautiful and all the children are above average. He got a kick out of that," Forsberg said.
Forsberg said everyone he met was kind and friendly. His connections with Sanchez could provide another opportunity in March as Forsberg has been invited to go back with the hopes of meeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Coontinued from Page 9
Chávez, who has been openly critical of the United States and former President George Bush's foreign policies, is a close ally of Correa's.
"I thought if he had the time, I would make an offer to play him in some table tennis and give him a donation for whatever organization they want to donate to. I'll try that if I go back," Forsberg said. "When you are over 80 and you want to do something, you better get it done quickly. Life is short."