'Holding On Tight': Wife Of Brittney Griner Details Their Emotional Reunion

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Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, is opening up about their emotional reunion after the Phoenix Mercury center was released from Russian custody.

Brittney was playing for a Russian Premier League basketball team during the WNBA offseason in February when she was stopped at a Moscow airport, arrested on drug charges, and thereafter, tried and then sentenced to nine years in prison.

"It was almost as if somebody just punched you in the stomach and you inhaled," Cherelle told People. "You never get to breathe out."

Cherelle said she began to feel the pressure lift when President Joe Biden invited her to the White House on December 8 to announce that Brittney was heading home, nearly 10 months after the WNBA star was first detained.

"I had thought about that moment a thousand times, and I thought I would be full of tears," she said. "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.'"

The WNBA wife saw Brittney's face from the window of a plane hours later as she stood on a tarmac in San Antonio.

"We were both just instantly crying," Cherelle said. "I was standing there full of tears and someone ran over and handed me a handkerchief. I definitely needed it."

When Brittney was finally allowed to exit the plane, the two tightly embraced.

"I couldn't stop touching her face," Cherelle recalled. "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."

Since coming back to their home in Arizona, the couple is trying to return to normalcy.

"The first night, we didn't sleep at all," Cherelle said, laughing. "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."

As the two reconnect, they are learning more about the people they've become while spending months apart.

"It's unfortunate that those 10 months happened without us being able to be side-by-side," Cherelle said. "But it happened, and we're embracing the fact that we now get to learn each other's story through that time. So we're taking it slow. We are not doing it all at once. But we are honoring the fact that I went through something that was really hard and difficult without BG's awareness, and vice versa. Day by day, we're just feeding a little bit to the soul and understanding each other's journey so we can actually start walking together."

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