Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle shares moment couple were reunited: ‘I couldn’t let her go’

Cherelle and Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner has described their reunion following the athlete’s release from 10 months in Russian detention.

After an agonising wait Cherelle received a call from president Joe Biden on 8 December confirming her wife was returning to US soil. Griner was released in a prisoner exchange for Russian criminal Viktor Bout, who was being held in the United States.

Cherelle has opened up in an interview with People about how she was “finally able to exhale” after hearing the good news. 

“I had thought about that moment a thousand times, and I thought I would be full of tears, but I was overwhelmingly happy. 

“It was the first time I was able to finally exhale, and I’m like, ‘Oh, thank God. This is such a great day.'”

She recalled spotting her wife through the airplane window once she landed, which caused them both to instantly start crying. 

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“I was standing there full of tears and someone ran over and handed me a handkerchief. I definitely needed it.”

Before she could embrace her wife she had to wait for medical professionals to evaluate her. 

She told People “those seconds couldn’t go by fast enough”, and when they were finally reunited she shared: “I couldn’t stop touching her face.”

“I was like, ‘Is this really you?’ It did not feel real. It was chilling – and warm. I was just holding on tight. I couldn’t let her go.”

Brittney Griner in Russian court in Moscow, Russia
Griner was freed in a prisoner exchange with Russian criminal Viktor Bout. (The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in a Russian penal colony after pleading guilty to drug charges. She was reportedly found at an airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. 

At her sentencing, Brittney told the court she had made “an honest mistake” and she “never meant to break any laws”. 

After hearing her wife’s sentence, Cherelle said: “It was almost as if somebody just punched you in the stomach and you inhaled.” 

She shared that she felt “hopeless a lot of the days” while Brittney was away. Despite this, she continued to campaign for her wife’s freedom, and to mark her 32nd birthday in October, set up the #WeAreBG campaign

“I had all my freedom. I had my bed. But when you have your family overseas in a situation like that, time zones play a factor,” she says. “Every night, that’s the only time I could talk to her attorneys and I could handle things, anything related to Russia. And so I just hadn’t slept,” she told People. 

Their first night together saw the couple catch up on everything but sleep. “The first night, we didn’t sleep at all,” Cherelle said. 

“We just talked all night long and all morning. And it was so good to be able to do it without three weeks in between the conversation because for 10 months we were passing letters. It was great to have that dialogue back and forth.”

Cherelle said the ordeal was “unfortunate” and they are now learning to understand “each other’s journey” so they can start “walking together”. 

She said she is doing well, but admitted it was overwhelming to go through. 

“We’re plus-13 days in from BG being away for almost 10 months. So it’s a new journey for us. And so we’re definitely trying to figure out how we blend back as one.”

“We do understand that the normal we are referring to was what we were doing before February 17. 

“We reminisce about certain things in the past,” Cherelle says. “Still, we’re trying to make sure we’re not going backwards. For the most part, we’re eyes focused on what’s in store next for the both of us,” she shared. 

Since her release, Brittney has urged her supporters to show the same support for Paul Whelan, a fellow American still imprisoned in Russia.

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