GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Supporting one daughter playing women’s hockey in the Olympics isn’t exactly easy. Especially when the other daughter, a fellow Olympian, wants no yelling.
So Greg and Robin Brandt sat as quietly as possible Wednesday watching Marissa play for Korea with Hannah, a forward for the United States, sitting beside them.
Hannah’s 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, ‘You don’t yell at my games like that do you?” Robin Brandt said of Hannah. “I’m like, ‘No. I’m worse.’ I don’t know. It’s more exciting here. I really don’t yell at the U.S. games because it’s not as appropriate. But here … everyone’s 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 country’s first women’s hockey team in the Olympics. With the surprise addition of 12 North Koreans less than three weeks ago, the team has drawn intense scrutiny and dignitaries attended their opening game (and North Korea’s 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 women’s hockey.
Together, the sisters have brought the Brandts and Marissa’s husband, Brett Ylonen , all the way from Minnesota to this coastal town in South Korea for an Olympic experience with double the teams — and games. They sit in the stands wearing Korea blue jerseys and switch things up when the Americans play. They stay 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, it’s an absolute dream come true for us.”
Robin added: “And for them.”
“And for our family, it’s 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 hadn’t 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 isn’t very popular here, so I hope to just show girls that it’s 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 Tuesday night 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 Marissa’s Olympic debut last weekend in an 8-0 loss to Switzerland. A canceled practice allowed Hannah to join her family Wednesday and watch her sister in person in a 4-1 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.
“It’s 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 have one game left in these games. Hannah and the Americans are chasing their own history, trying to bring home the country’s first gold in women’s hockey since 1998.
“That would be really nice wouldn’t it?” their mother said.
Worth yelling about, too.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker