The Asian Reporter 20th Annual
Scholarship & Awards Banquet -
SISTERS ON ICE. Marissa Brandt (#23) defends Team South Koreaís goal in an exhibition hockey game in Minneapolis in this file photo. Marissa, a native Korean who was adopted as an infant by parents in Minnesota, and her sister Hannah, are both competing in the Winter Olympics in womenís hockey ó Marissa for South Korea and Hannah for the United States. (AP Photo/John Autey, File)
Marissa Brandt (right, #23), a native Korean who was adopted as an infant by parents in Minnesota, and her sister Hannah (left, #20), are both competing in the Winter Olympics in womenís hockey ó Marissa for South Korea and Hannah for the United States. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #4 (February 19, 2018), pages 7 & 9.
Shh, mom! No yelling when sister watches fellow Olympian
By Teresa M. Walker
GANGNEUNG, South Korea ó Supporting one daughter playing womenís hockey in the Olympics isnít exactly easy. Especially when the other daughter, a fellow Olympian, wants no yelling.
So Greg and Robin Brandt sat as quietly as possible watching Marissa play for Korea with Hannah, a forward for the United States, sitting beside them.
Hannahís schedule was a bit tight, so she could only watch the first period before leaving. That freed her parents to join the boisterous crowd at the Kwandong Hockey Centre cheering for the first combined Korean team ever to play in an Olympics.
"She says, ĎYou donít yell at my games like that do you?" Robin Brandt said of Hannah. "Iím like, ĎNo. Iím worse.í I donít know. Itís more exciting here. I really donít yell at the U.S. games because itís not as appropriate. But here ... everyoneís yelling. You have to yell."
The sisters Brandt have given their family more than enough reason to cheer, sing, or simply beam with pride.
Marissa, who was born in South Korea, is one of six North Americans imported for the countryís first womenís hockey team in the Olympics. With the surprise addition of 12 North Koreans about three weeks ago, the team has drawn intense scrutiny and dignitaries attended their opening game (and North Koreaís famous cheerleader group has been at all three). Hannah, meanwhile, is trying to help the United States end a 20-year drought without a gold medal in womenís hockey.
Together, the sisters have brought the Brandts and Marissaís husband, Brett Ylonen, all the way from Minnesota to the coastal town in South Korea for an Olympic experience with double the teams ó and games. They sit in the stands wearing Korea blue jerseys and switch things up when the Americans play. Theyíve stayed busy with a daughter playing every other day.
"This is for women and girls and anyone dreaming this is where you want to be," Greg Brandt said. "And to have both Marissa and Hannah to be able to do this, itís an absolute dream come true for us."
Robin added: "And for them."
"And for our family, itís incredible," Greg Brandt said.
Marissa thought hockey was over after finishing up Division III hockey at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota. Then came a call to help a country she hadnít seen since being adopted as a baby build a hockey team for the Olympics. Married to Ylonen, who works in medical sales in Minnesota, she started to add trips to South Korea amid lots of texting and FaceTime calls to stay in touch.
"For me personally, it goes bigger than hockey," Marissa Brandt said. "I hope to be a role model for young girls and expand the sport here in Korea. Hockey isnít very popular here, so I hope to just show girls that itís fun to play and something they should do if they want to. So it goes bigger than hockey for me."
Hannah starred at the University of Minnesota and just missed the U.S. roster in 2014 at Sochi. She scored her first Olympic goal in a 5-0 win over the Olympic athletes from Russia and just missed a second goal waved off as a hand pass.
With the busy schedules and each sister in separate groups, Hannah had to text her father for the password to watch Marissaís Olympic debut in a 0-8 loss to Switzerland. A cancelled practice allowed Hannah to join her family to watch her sister in person in a 1-4 loss to Japan.
Hannah snapped a photo of the opening puck drop, then had her phone ready to shoot video every time the Koreans came into the offensive zone. Unfortunately, she had to leave before Marissa got the assist at 9:31 of the second period on the first Korean goal in Olympic history.
"Itís amazing to be able to watch her live (and) compete in the Olympics obviously and to just kind of witness history with this team," Hannah said.
Marissa and the Koreans lost their final match, 0-2, to Switzerland.
Hannah and the Americans are chasing their own history, trying to bring home the countryís first gold in womenís hockey since 1998.
"That would be really nice wouldnít it?" their mother said.
Worth yelling about, too.
Read The Asian Reporter in its entirety!