TORONTO (AP) — James Hinchcliffe took a break from checkered and green flags for a taste of Olympic gold.
Hinchcliffe, an Oakville, Ontario native, met Olympic women’s hockey gold medalists Natalie Spooner, Meaghan Mikkelson and Jennifer Wakefield before the start of Saturday’s IndyCar Series race.
The quartet autographed and exchanged Canada jerseys for Hinchcliffe crew shirts. The Olympians toured the paddock and pit lane, getting an up-close view of preparations for the doubleheader on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn street circuit at Exhibition Place.
“We’re excited to be here and appreciative to James for the invitation,” Wakefield said. “I’ve never been to anything like this before and it’s crazy how fast the cars are on the track and all the work that goes into preparing for the race.”
Spooner and Mikkelson are involved with a different kind of racing – they’re contestants on “The Amazing Race Canada.” They won the first two stages of the reality TV show.
“Going to the Olympics was an amazing experience, but (the show) is something totally out of our comfort zone,” Spooner said. “We got out to a fast start but it’s a long race.”
Hinchcliffe rooted them on during the Olympics. They defeated the United States in the title game in Sochi.
“National pride,” Hinchcliffe said. “The whole country was watching and cheering them on as they were kicking butt over in Russia.”
Hinchcliffe, who qualified ninth, is seeking the first victory in his home race.
“They had the weight of a whole country while they were in Russia, and I get that kind of feeling when we race in Toronto so maybe I’ll get a few mental preparation tips,” he said.