SAN FRANCISCO - Someone took off with a 7-foot unicycle from the woman behind the legendary “Red Panda Acrobat” at San Francisco International Airport, and now her agent is offering a $2,000 reward, no questions asked.
On Wednesday, at KTVU's request, the San Francisco Police Airport Division released surveillance photos of a man with a red ponytail and beard who walked into the terminal three baggage claim on Jan. 24 and took a black roller suitcase containing the unicycle from carousel number five. The pictures show him in Skechers, wheeling a black bag and a suitcase away on a cart. The unicycle is worth $25,000.
Since its disappearance, Rong Niu, the solo San Francisco unicyclist who juggles and balances plates on her head at NBA basketball games and universities across the country, has not been the same.
“She’s heartbroken,” her agent, Pat Figley of San Francisco-based Farallon Entertainment, told KTVU on Wednesday. ”It’s like her baby was kidnapped. She’s had that unicycle for 30 years.”
As Figley tells the story, Niu had landed at SFO from Denver and was waiting for her bag – filled with her 7-foot unicycle – to come off the conveyor belt. She saw it from a distance. But as she was about 10 to 15 feet away, someone “must have grabbed it,” Figley said. He said it's possible someone even took it by mistake, and if so, he's hoping they return it, no questions asked. The news release describes the event as a "theft," and it's been exactly a week since the unicycle was taken, even if accidentally.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Cargo and Task Force is also working the case.
Niu was supposed to perform at UCLA the next day, Figley said, and had to cancel. She is a regular performer for the Golden State Warriors, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. She’s also appeared on America’s Got Talent, ESPN and the Bleacher Report.
After KTVU first reported her story, outlets including Sports Illustrated and Yahoo Sports also got the word out, and on Twitter, her fans expressed their love for her and her act. Some even said she should be put into the Hall of Fame.
She's now back out on the road, but she’s on a backup unicycle. And it’s not the same.
“She’s doing horribly,” Figley said. “She’s dropping bowls. She’s just not used to it. The one that was stolen was custom built for her.”
Figley said he is offering a $2,000 for the unicycle’s safe return. Contact him at email@example.com