Sisters Hannah and Marissa Brandt grew up doing pretty much everything together, and they've gone as far as making it to the 2018 Winter Olympics together, too. Except for one little wrinkle: they're playing for different teams in PyeongChang. Hannah Brandt is currently representing the U.S., and her sister Marissa is playing for the Korean team.
Marissa, the older of the two Brandt sisters, was adopted by her parents Greg and Robin from Korea in 1993 when she was four months old. The Brandts had struggled to conceive for years, and they were ecstatic to find out they were approved to adopt. And then, right after hearing the news, Robin also found out she was pregnant. They chose not to tell the adoption agency. â€śYou bond with that photo,â€ť Robin told USA Today, â€śand weâ€™d seen her, so we couldnâ€™t not have her come.â€ť (Adoptions are often based on 'need,' and so finding their finding out Robin was pregnant could have impacted their chances.)
Growing up, both Hannah and Marissa took up figure skating, and then both traded it in for ice hockey, and then both competed at the college level â€“ though they went to different universities. Marissa attended Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, while and Hannah headed to the University of Minnesota one year later.
When Hannah was a sophomore in college, she was offered the opportunity to try out for the U.S. team competing at the Sochi Olympics. She was one of the final girls to get cut. â€śObviously, that was disappointing,â€ť Brandt told Pioneer Press. "To come that close and not make it was tough.â€ť But she kept working and was able to make the team for PyeongChang four years later. â€śI learned a lot from that experience getting cut four years ago,â€ť Brandt said. â€śIt made it that much sweeter this time around.â€ť
Marissa, on the other hand, didn't expect to go the Olympics at all. After graduating in 2015 with a management degree, she hadn't factored hockey into her post-grad plans. But Rebecca Baker, a coach with the Korean team, knew about Marissa through her husband â€“ who had coached Hannah at Minnesota and knew she had a twin sister from South Korea. They invited her to try out for the team, and she was one of six American and Canadian players given a spot.
Marissa hadn't been back to South Korea since she was adopted, although she says she and Hannah had always talked about doing a "sister trip" there together. They both say having their family with them in Korea for the Games has been special, and Marissa hopes she can represent her birth country well. "I never thought that this would happen, and I never thought I'd be back here under these circumstances," Marissa said. "I just hope to make Korea proud."
She's even wearing her birth name, Park Yoon Jung, on her jersey in hopes of finding her birth mother. â€śIt was kind of just something for her as well, maybe sheâ€™d be watching,â€ť Marissa told USA Today. â€śAnd even if she didnâ€™t, it was just kind of my way of hopefully making her proud in a weird way, even if she doesnâ€™t know.â€ť
The two teams, USA and Korea, have only a slim chance of meeting each other in the tournament because they're playing in different groups (and Team USA will probably advance farther than Korea) but if the sisters do get a chance to meet up on the ice, they say they definitely won't go easy on one another.
â€śWe're sisters, but when we're in the Olympic Games, we're going to be competitive,â€ť Hannah told Yonhap News after a practice session on Wednesday. â€śIt's my team versus her team at that point.â€ť
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