Brittney Griner’s wife died for the first time in ten months when she learned that her WNBA superstar wife was returning home earlier this month after being released from a Russian prison.
“I had thought about that moment a thousand times, and I thought I would be in tears,” Cherelle Griner told People after receiving the good news in the Oval Office on Dec. 8. “But I was extremely happy.
“It was the first time I could finally breathe out, and I was like, ‘Oh, thank God, it’s such a beautiful day. “”
Cherelle admitted to the outlet in the interview published on Tuesday that she had felt hopeless for several days after his wife was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 for drug possession for allegedly carrying cartridges of cannabis oil vape. The 32-year-old later pleaded guilty in a Russian court to drug charges and received a harsh nine-year sentence in a gruesome Russian penal colony.
“It was almost like someone just punched you in the stomach and you inhaled,” Cherelle said of the unfathomable ordeal. “You never manage to exhale.”
“I was desperate for several days,” Cherelle also told People. “You try to keep your feet on the ground, but I’m human. Yet, I would never completely lose hope in my wife’s life.
The partners were eventually reunited at an airbase in San Antonio after the United States traded Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for the Phoenix Mercury Center. But the prisoner swap left out American and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who remains locked up in a Russian prison after initial efforts to bring him and Griner home.
As Cherelle stood on the tarmac, she said her eyes locked on Brittney’s from an airplane window, according to People.
“We were both in tears instantly,” she said. “I was there, full of tears and someone ran up to me and handed me a tissue. I really needed it.”
The two quickly kissed, Cherelle recalled.
“I couldn’t help but touch his face,” Cherelle reportedly said. “I was like, ‘Is this really you?’ It didn’t feel real. It was cold – and hot. I just held on tight. I couldn’t let her go.
The pair have made up for lost time since Brittney’s return with Cherelle saying they are both catching up on what each has been through for almost the past year. They were rarely able to connect while Brittney was stranded in Russia.
“The first night, we didn’t sleep at all,” Cherelle told People. “We just talked all night and all morning.
“And it was so good to be able to do that without three weeks between conversations, because for 10 months we exchanged letters. It was great to have that two-way dialogue.