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NBA team will replace acrobat's unicycle

By WILLIAM HENNELLY in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-02-05 05:51
Krystal (Rong) Niu. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The NBA's Golden State Warriors miss Red Panda's unicycle act, so they are going to buy her a new wheel.

Krystal (Rong) Niu, who goes by Red Panda Acrobat, has for years done her juggling act at halftime of NBA and NCAA basketball games. Niu's 7-foot unicycle, which cost $25,000, was either taken by mistake or stolen from a baggage carousel at the San Francisco International Airport on Jan 24.

"The Red Panda is legendary and absolutely loved and adored by everyone, especially our fans and season tickets holders. With a new, custom made unicycle we are glad that we could do our small part to help this great tradition continue," Warriors President & COO Rick Welts posted on Twitter on Friday.

Niu was en route from Denver 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", said her agent, Patrick Figley of Farallon Entertainment in San Francisco.

Figley shared an email that the team sent him, which read 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."

"It is amazing. I do want people to know of their (the Warriors') generosity," Figley told China Daily via email on Friday.

"This cloud has been lifted," he told Bay Area News Group on Friday. "She was thrilled. She's really, really appreciative. The Warriors are a great organization."

Figley told KTVU in Oakland on Wednesday after the unicycle went missing that Niu was "heartbroken".

"It's like her baby was kidnapped," he said. "She's had that unicycle for 30 years."

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 had to cancel one performance, at a UCLA game on Jan 25.

Figley said Niu had 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. Figley said there is a $2,000 reward posted for the unicycle's return.

In her act, the native of Shanxi province balances bowls on her head while riding on the unicycle. She also kicks the bowls from her foot to her head, where she stacks them.

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

Niu has been performing Chinese acrobatics since she was a girl 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, a feat that was broadcast on a Guinness World Records television show in 1999.

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