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Acrobat 'lost' after unicycle goes missing in San Francisco

By William Hennelly in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-02-02 16:14

The search is on to find Red Panda's missing unicycle.

Red Panda Acrobat is the stage name for Krystal (Rong) Niu, who has performed for years during halftimes of NBA and NCAA college basketball games in the US.

The native of Shanxi province rides a unicycle on basketball courts across the country while balancing bowls on her head. She also kicks the bowls from her foot to her head while on the unicycle.

She is a regular performer for the NBA's Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers and has appeared on America's Got Talent.

The 7-foot unicycle, which cost $25,000, was either taken by mistake or stolen from a baggage carousel at the San Francisco International Airport last week.

"She's heartbroken," her agent Pat Figley of Farallon Entertainment in San Francisco told KTVU in Oakland on Wednesday. "It's like her baby was kidnapped. She's had that unicycle for 30 years."

On Friday Figley told KTUV that the Warriors told Niu of that they would be honored to buy her a new custom-built unicycle.

He shared an email the Warriors sent him which said in part: "To thank Red Panda for her years of family friendly entertainment, the Golden State Warriors and their family of approximately 14,500 season ticket holders would like to replace Red Panda's missing unicycle, with a brand new custom cycle so that she can continue to put smiles on the faces of fans at Warriors games and, just as important, all over the world."

Niu was en route from Denver on Jan 24 when she landed at SFO. She saw her bag from a distance as she waited for it to come off the belt. It was about 10 to 15 feet away when someone "must have grabbed it", Figley said. He said if it was taken by mistake, he hopes it's returned, no questions asked. Figley's also offering a $2,000 reward for its return.

San Francisco police released a surveillance photo of a man they said wheeled off the unicycle. He was described as having red hair, a red beard and wearing black sneakers.

Niu so far has had to cancel one performance, at a UCLA game on Jan 25.

Figley said Niu has a replacement unicycle but it's not the same.

"She's dropping bowls. She's just not used to it. The one that was stolen was custom built for her," he told KTVU.

Niu has been performing Chinese acrobatics since the age of 11 and developed her bowl-flipping act with the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. According to Farallon's website, Niu holds the world record for the most bowls balanced on her head.

Tweets across the US have been supportive, with Louisiana State University basketball promising an LSU-themed crawfish boil and university gear as a reward.

Sports Channel 8 in North Carolina tweeted that "we vow to search for Red Panda's unicycle".

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