It should really come as no surprise that the sport of motocross has allowed 22-year old Ami Houde to see the world. Her father Kim Houde is a local motocross legend and a former Canadian champion. He had Ami on a dirt bike, complete with training wheels before she could even talk.
Houde was racing by the age of four, and has never looked back. "I really don't remember a time in my life when motocross wasn't a huge part of it."
In the last two years her passion for the sport has taken Houde to amazing heights, including the opportunity to attend the world championships in France in 2010 and the Bermuda Triangle Motocross Championships in 2009.
Locally Houde races against both men and women, but at the international level the competition is strictly gender specific, and Houde gushes when she talks about the opportunity to race against the fastest ladies in the land. "In France motocross is huge, and getting the chance to race on amazing tracks against the fastest girls in the world was a total dream come true," said Houde, who was invited to France to represent one of her sponsors, DC Shoes.
As exciting as the opportunity was, Houde is quick to point out that the sport of motocross can be extremely cruel. "I separated my shoulder in France," added Houde, who has a grocery list of injuries thanks to her racing career. "Some mornings I feel like I'm 50-years old, I've broken my wrist, cracked my sternum, and separated my shoulder at least five times," said Houde, who had to have surgery on her shoulder last year and admits to being covered in bruises throughout the racing season. "It's all part of the sport and a pink cast is a great conversation starter," she added with a laugh.
All kidding aside the sport of motocross may be serious business, but for Houde having fun is the name of the game. "Even though I've never won a major championship the sport has opened so many doors for me and taken me to places I could have never imagined, and along the way I've met amazing people," said Houde.
Along the way she has also helped and inspired other racers. In 2009 she started the MXA Motocross Academy and has helped racers of all ages and both genders hone their skills. Houde beams like a proud teacher when she speaks of one student, 15-year old Nick Bembridge, who started taking classes with her a couple of years ago and is now among the top three riders in his class. "It's a great feeling when you can pass along your knowledge to someone else and see the results on the track," added Houde, who credits her father with instilling the skills required to be both a successful racer and teacher.
Perhaps, however, the most amazing thing about Ami Houde is that while still managing to keep motocross in her life, either as a teacher or a racer, she is also a full time student at the University of Winnipeg and will graduate with a degree in business management this year. As if that's not enough, she's also a full time manager at a local Boston Pizza restaurant. When asked how she manages to find time to keep motocross in her life Houde admits that racing is in her blood. "There have been times when I wanted to quit racing, either because of injury or due to lack of time, but then I realize how important motocross is to my own identity. I have been racing motocross for almost 20 years and it's not just a sport, it's a lifestyle. I truly can't imagine my life without it."
Although a few of the young men she races against still seem to have trouble getting beat by a woman, Houde offered that for the most part the local motocross scene is one big happy family and she cherishes the friendships she's made. She's also excited about the future of women in motocross. "Just a few years ago there was only a few girls racing in Manitoba, but this year there were 18 girls racing," said Houde, who made a point of mentioning local female racers Jamie Burmey and Jamie Routley. "These girls are really fast and although we battle hard I have huge respect for them," added Houde.
Like all successful racers, Houde is quick to give thanks to those who have helped her realize her dreams. "My parents are amazing, my mom is super supportive and my father Kim Houde is inspiring. He was a Canadian Champion back in 1979. He also won the over 40 and over 50 World Championships in 2007. He is the reason I started racing, and he's the reason I still do it. He's taught me the best racing and life lesson there is.
"It's not about the championships or trophies you've won, it's about the times you've picked yourself up off the ground to finish the race, and the fun you had doing it."
Ami Houde is sponsored by Honda Canada, Winnipeg Sport and Leisure, One Industries, Dragon, We All Ride, Aspire to Inspire Clothing Company, DC Shoes and Capitol Motorsports. For more information on Ami Houde, or to sign up your budding racer for her motocross classes you can check her out on the web at www.amihoude.com or on Facebook at Ami Houde.