Brittney Griner rang in her first birthday at home since her release from a Russian prison. The now 33-year-old WNBA champion was seen smiling in a new reel shared by wife Cherelle Griner for her special day.
“Happy birthday, my love! God did his big one with you,” Cherelle captioned an Instagram post on October 18. “I couldn’t ask for a better soul to do life with! Celebrating you is easy, and to love you is an honor. Cheers to another year, baby.” The video featured sweet moments between Brittney and her wife, including one of the athlete holding up a pair of gold balloons with her initials, B.G.
Brittney’s latest milestone looked starkly different from one year ago. Last October, the basketball player was detained in a Russian penal colony. For her 32nd birthday, Brittney’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, told PEOPLE that it was clearly an “unusual birthday,” adding that it was “of course a difficult day for her, you can imagine because she is all alone in a jail in a foreign country.”
The Phoenix Mercury team member received endless support from fans all over the world, who wrote her letters for her birthday at the time. Brittney’s legal team told the outlet, “We brought her a lot of letters, birthday messages from all over the world, from her family, from friends, her team; and that was very important for her.” Though it was a difficult ordeal for her, Brittney was “really happy to receive” the kind notes from supporters.
“She feels the support. So, this was good,” they said at the time.
In February 2022, Brittney’s life was upended when she was arrested in Moscow on drug smuggling charges that the U.S. government heavily argued. Russian officials claimed that they had discovered vape cartridges with less than one gram of hash oil in Brittney’s luggage.
After 10 months behind bars, Brittney was released in a prisoner swap between Russia and the U.S. This past May, the two-time Olympic gold medalist returned to the basketball court. She also appeared at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Upon returning to the sport, Brittney admitted to a group of reporters that she “didn’t think [her situation] could get that big,” referring to the worldwide attention her case received.
“But it’s cool because now, I’m able to reach even more people and bring them into the WNBA, but then also keep them aware of other detainees that are still left behind right now and that we’re trying to get home,” Brittney said, per CNN. “So, just using that bigger outlet to continue to support others who are in need and don’t have the spotlight or the media coverage that they should be able to get.”