Dorothy Peterson of Mankato competed in a championship round of table tennis for the 90-94 division Tuesday and won the silver medal. She won the gold in women’s doubles and competes in mixed doubles Wednesday.
Dangle a gold medal in Dorothy Peterson’s face, and she’ll be ready to break a sweat with her paddle.
The 91-year-old has gained national attention for her table tennis skills over the past decade, and Peterson was on hand for the 90-and-over women’s singles table tennis event at the National Senior Games on Tuesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
“I love the game,” Peterson said. “This is my form of exercise, and I love this form of exercise. And I love the competition.”
Peterson took home silver in the event, out of three competitors in the age group, after winning gold in women’s doubles Monday. She gained her claim to fame in 2008 when Peterson, who resides in Mankato, told the local paper she was looking for a challenge in her age group. Talk show host Regis Philbin found out about Peterson’s story and challenged her on Regis and Kelly. It was Peterson’s first time in New York, let alone in a studio, but she left the Big Apple with a win.
“I was scared to death about it to be honest,” Peterson said. “But I could [beat him]. He’s easy. Yes he was. Kelly [Ripa] came back to the green room and told me to beat his brains out.”
Vic Swenson also heard about Peterson’s story and organized a table tennis group that now plays at Bethel Baptist Church in Mankato.
The 79-year-old said there’s been more than 200 people who have participated in the club since its inception. Swenson said the group averages about 10 people per gathering.
“We got Dorothy started with doing that, and she comes three times a week when she’s here and available,” Swenson said. “She’s kind of been an inspiration for all of us. She’s been incredible.”
When Peterson isn’t in the Twin Cities, she is typically down in Texas competing in different tournaments. She has only competed in table tennis for the past 15 years, but she was first introduced to the sport at age 10 when her parents bought her a Ping-Pong set growing up in Big Stone City, S.D.
“It was on my mother’s dining room table, and it was on and off,” Peterson said. “We didn’t always get to play.”
Peterson competed in front of 13 of her family and friends. She still has her favorite event left, mixed doubles, in the final day of table tennis Wednesday.
Peterson is limited in her mobility and wears a brace around her right leg, but it won’t stop her from playing the game she loves with or without a partner.
“To see all these people as active as I am, I live for this,” Peterson said. “Going to practice is the highlight of my day.”