Two sisters represent different countries on the ice of Pyeongchang
The ice hockey sisters Hannah, who competes for the USA, and Marissa Brandt, who competes with Korea, in the Olympic village of Gangneung, in South Korea, on February 6, 2018
The two grew up together, went to school hand in hand, skated side by side, and yet sisters Marissa and Hannah Brandt will represent two different countries in the ice hockey tournament of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, which began on Friday .
Adopted shortly after being born in South Korea, Marissa Brandt is one of the hundreds of thousands of children who found a new family abroad in the early 1990s.
In his case, he found a home in the home of Greg and Robin Brandt, near the frozen lakes of Minnesota, in the northern United States.
With the birth a few months after Hannah, the two girls grew up and skated together until they reached the national ice hockey team.
But while Hannah will defend the colors of the ‘Stars and Stripes’, Seoul re-established the South Korean nationality of Marissa to reinforce her national team.
“I wanted to integrate, not differentiate myself from my sister,” Marissa explains to AFP. “We have always been the best friends and we have done everything together,” says her little sister, 24 years old.
Marissa thus changed the figure skating for hockey and both sisters shared equipment until they entered different universities.
The South Korean Federation began combing American campuses in search of hockey players from the Asian country to create a powerful hockey team in ‘their’ Games.
– ‘Proud to be Korean’ –
And is that South Korea has only 319 hockey players federated, according to the data of the International Federation.
Marissa was identified among the potential candidates and was invited to a test in 2015, which involved her return to her native country.
“I was very restless and curious, as much as nervous, and I did not know what I was going to find,” he recalls.
Selected for the team, Marissa received her South Korean passport the following year, as well as her uniform with the screen-printed name ‘Park Yoon-Jung’, the same as it appeared in her adoption papers.
“I chose to wear my Korean name because it really is my only link with Korea,” he explains.
Since then Marissa has approached her native country, which loves its cuisine. Now, it is considered “Korean-American.” “I can finally say that I am proud of being Korean,” she confesses.
– In search of his mother –
Marissa Brandt is among the three foreign signings of the South Korean team, qualified for the Games as host.
Then 12 North Korean players were added to present a unified team, a sign of the rapprochement between the two countries of the peninsula.
The Brandt sisters have few options to face on the ice, since the two countries are in two different groups and Korea has hardly any chance of reaching the elimination rounds.
“We always joke by asking who our parents would support in case of facing us,” Marissa smiles.
“I think that adoption is something important for children to find a good home and receive love,” he says.
Beyond sport, Marissa would like to reconnect with her biological mother, aware however of the difficulty involved in the task given the limited data available.