LIVING LIFE LARGE AT 82? “NO PROBLEM!”

Jacques Houot (pronouced ‘oooo ohh’) is an age-defying athlete. Some are even convinced that he’s found the fountain of youth! In the Banff Mountain Film Festival film, The Frenchy, we see 82-year-old Jacques live life with no thoughts of slowing down! In fact, I don’t think he knows how!

In the film, we see Jacques continuing to compete as a ski racer, a downhill mountain bike rider and a backcountry mountain bike rider. Medals adorn the walls of his room, and stories are abundant.

As we hear about his life story and the many different situations he’s found himself in, it’s astounding that he’s managed to reach the age he is and with the health and ability he has. Be it cancer, gun point, a heart attack, avalanches, drowning, the list goes on! None of that though, has dulled his enthusiasm for life, that infectious laugh he has or taken away his trademark saying, “no problem!”

At last count he has had around 23 or maybe 24 near-death experiences, one of the most publicised being when he was 22 years old and he accidentally drove his car off a bridge! Yikes! He still has the newspaper clipping from the accident and remembers the story well, all these years later. Like most of Jacques life, there isn’t much he’s done that you’d soon he able to forget.

Michelle Smith, the filmmaker of ‘The Frenchy’, recalls first meeting Jacques, “…while filming a cyclocross race. He couldn’t get enough of the camera and immediately started telling hilarious stories about all of his close calls on camera with no prompting. When I got home and looked through my footage I realised I had nothing by footage of Jacques. I knew a film star was born and I had to make a film about him. I asked if we could make a short film about him. His response – NO PROBLEM with a huge smile and laugh.” Now knowing a little about Jacques from the film, she subsequently made, could there have been any other answer given, except “no problem”? I don’t think so!

When making the film, Michelle didn’t realise that she would soon gain a best friend. “He lived two blocks away from me at the time, and he would stop by any hour of the day – knock and then just walk right in on his own terms. He would come in and go on to us during his visits about all the latest news in bike and ski races, his own personal day to day stories and retelling all of his close call stories… He also taught my four year old all “cuss” words.”

From his birth place in France, to his now home in Colorado, USA, Jacques is a man who doesn’t let circumstance dictate his opportunity. He keeps pushing forward, trying new things, exploring new places and finding his home wherever he goes. As a testament to his endurance and the perfect example of his optimism, Michelle tells, “During one video shot, there was a massive thunderstorm coming in. We had to get off the mountain quickly. I liked off very quickly, terrified, with thunder and lightning all around me. Jacques was not phased. He proceeded to take his time and ride his mountain bike down the mountain in the torrential rain, mud and lightning. He fell badly at one point – hit his face on the ground, face covered in blood, broken helmet – and he just said no problem and kept on biking down.”

Jacques is the kind of human that’s so needed in our world. He’s engaging, friendly, warm and still has that twinkle in his eye…. And if you had him in your corner encouraging you with a constant ‘no problem’, you might just find yourself tackling your dreams too.