80 year old Byng Forsberg is a model of physical fitness.
He stands five foot nine, 140 pounds. His weight hasn’t changed since he was in the Air Force more than 60 years ago.
Forsberg is at the Natomas Community Center, hitting an orange ping pong ball back and forth with a friend. He’s taking it easy on his 54 year old pal. After all, Forsberg is the reigning National Senior Table Tennis Champion.
It’s good exercise for me. I enjoy it. You can play it all winter long…laughs….
Forsberg took up table tennis, or ping pong, 41 years ago, as part of rehab after a car accident:
For anybody, it’s a wonderful exercise, ‘cause you’ve gotta move.. So it keeps you in good condition. It’s one of the things that is a good workout.
He plays about 10 hours a week and averages one tournament a month. He’ll compete this weekend at the Senior Games in Sacramento, and if he wins, he’ll go to the nationals for the third time.
Forsberg is used to challenges. Consider his nickname: THE PONGINATOR.
That’s right… Forsberg has used his 40 mile per hour forehand against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
He was not too skilled at the game. It took us about a half an hour to get it over the net ten times without it hitting the floor with it.
That’s the ball, that is, yeah.
It happened last September, when Forsberg was solicited to donate to the Republican Party. He wrote that he would, IF Schwarzenegger would agree to a game of table tennis. After several letters back and forth, the two finally met across a ping pong table set up at the Stockton airport, where the governor had a quick stop over. The only audience -- two secret servicemen:
He said we should have a weightlifting contest afterward, and I said, you can do the lifting, and I’ll do the waiting…laughs…
Forsberg actually does lift weights – three pounders -- part of the exercise routine he does with a senior group. He says his passion for physical fitness has not only kept him healthy, but also helped him through some rough times:
I had a wonderful wife of more than 40 years that just passed away, and this has been kind of a thing that’s been very helpful for me to keep going, instead of being so extremely depressed. .
Forsberg may have a drawer full of medals, but he says his main goal is to inspire senior citizens to exercise:
I think that the key to sustaining oneself and having a good golden years is certainly being active. You’ve absolutely got to, otherwise, you just dry up like an old fig or a prune or something.
Forsberg encourages EVERY couch potato out there to take up a sport:
Anybody can improve at any age, at any age. You don’t need to think, well gee, I’ve never done any of these things. You can’t start any younger, that’s what I say.
With his trim shape, easy laugh and upbeat mood, Byng Forsberg is an inspiration for senior citizens and Sacramentans of all ages:
It’s good, it’s good to be old…laughs…Hey, the golden years are good, that’s what I want to say. They can be, but you gotta work at it.
Forsberg keeps working at it. His next goal, to rally with the country’s 49 other governors.