Brittney Griner: After living on meager rations in Russian exile, the basketball star was greeted with Christmas trees and barbecues in the U.S.


WNBA star Brittney Griner returned to the United States after being released from Russian exile, getting her first taste of a return to normal life at a military facility in Texas over the weekend.

The Olympic gold medalist, who arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on Friday, now lives with her wife, Cherelle Griner, in a residential setting on the base — with a Christmas tree decorated by her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas.

Colas told CNN that Greiner, 32, was “optimistic, grateful and hopeful” after returning to the United States from what U.S. officials believe was a wrongful detention in Russia.

For Griner, who has been detained in Russia for nearly 10 months, “normal” means indulging in her favorites, including Dr Pepper soda, the first drink she drank in the hangar after landing.

Greener’s relatives also visited her on and off for hours, bringing her San Antonio roasts.

Colas said the athlete had been eating more nutritious food and supplements than he had during his detention. “Her energy level is really high,” she added.

Griner also got a haircut to clean up her “Russian fade,” as her friends and family joked, Colas said. Griner’s long, signature lock was broken during her captivity as she battled the flu, Colas said, as her wet hair kept freezing.

On a Texas military base, Grigley hits the basketball court for the first time since incarceration: Her first move is a slam dunk. Colas said Greiner was given a basketball and a hoop a few months ago while in pretrial detention in Russia, but she refused to play.

“I think it’s fair to say that she voluntarily picked up the ball and the first thing she did was dunk it … it was really inspiring,” Colas said. “She was really excited.”

Colas said Greiner appears to be in good health, but whether she returns to the WNBA in the spring will be up to her.

“Is she ready? We’ll see,” Colas said.

Brittney Griner (right) arrives at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday after a prisoner swap with Russia.

Greiner arrived at a San Antonio medical facility for a routine evaluation following his release Thursday as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia for notorious convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Fears grew that Griner was being used in Russia’s war against Ukraine after she was arrested on drug charges at a Russian airport in February while she was playing basketball in the WNBA’s offseason and later sentenced to nine years in prison. Political pawn. prison.

Greiner’s focus will now be on recovery, including getting physical and psychological support from the government to help her reintegrate into society.

“She had a lot of psychological support,” Colas said. “The resource is very strong. It’s very supportive and very BG-centric. It’s about her developmental agency.”

This care is primarily focused on helping former captives regain a sense of control over their lives after prolonged detention. Colas said Griner opted for the Department of Defense’s post-quarantine program, which also involved other wrongfully detained Americans, including Trevor Reed, a former Marine who died on April 4 after being illegally detained in Russia for three years. month was released.

Colas said it was unclear how long Griner and her wife would be in San Antonio, but the decision was up to her.

But it’s clear that “normal” will always be different after the Griner’s ordeal. Griners, for example, have started looking for new homes for safety reasons, Colas said.

While it remains to be seen whether fans will see Greiner back on the basketball court in May, one thing is certain, Colas said: Greiner is eager to use her power and influence to help others — especially Paul. Whelan, another American still held in Russia.

“That was the first thing she asked me,” Colas said. “She’s very, very concerned about that. And will send a message to Paul.”

According to Colas, Whelan has sent a message through U.S. representatives he’s spoken to in recent days: “Please tell Britney that Paul said he’s glad she’s home,” he told her.

“She’s definitely thinking about the future,” Colas said. “She’s already talking about where she’s at to help other people get home.”

Whelan, a citizen of the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada, was held in Russian exile following his arrest in December 2018 on espionage charges, which he denies. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Like Greiner, he was declared wrongfully detained by U.S. officials.

The U.S. tried to persuade Russia to trade Griner and Whelan for arms dealer Bout, but Russian officials would not back down on the matter, and Russia said the two Americans’ cases were handled differently based on the charges they each faced.

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