By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A leading U.S. amputee athlete seeking to compete in next year's Paralympic Games in Brazil has been sidelined from training after his $30,000 prosthetic running leg was stolen from his car in San Francisco, he said on Thursday.
The prosthesis, consisting of a carbon fiber blade and titanium, hydraulic-operated knee socket, had been specially designed to allow Ranjit Steiner to bend his right leg with human-like mechanics when he runs, he said.
Steiner said he had been driving to work on Tuesday, his 24th birthday, when he realized that a rear window of his car had been smashed - apparently while parked on the street overnight in the Mission District - and he discovered that his laptop computer and prosthesis had been stolen.
"There's no value to anybody who can't use this thing," he said of the artificial leg. "I'm the only one who can really use it. It's customized to fit my limb."
He said he hopes insurance will cover the loss if police are unable to recover the stolen leg. In the meantime, he has a second prosthetic he uses for walking and everyday functions, and has rigged up a back-up athletic leg from spare parts that he will try to use for yoga, cycling, swimming and weight-training.
"But it's not the same workout that I need to be doing," he said, adding that he doubts he will be able to resume training for the 200-meter dash before some time in April, about mid-season for track.
Steiner, who competes with able-bodied athletes as a non-student at the City College of San Francisco, placed third in the 200-meter dash at the paralympic nationals last year. He hopes to earn a spot on the U.S. team for the international Paralympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.
Steiner struggled with bone cancer in his lower right leg when he was 15, followed by a series of infections that led him to have his leg amputated above the knee at age 19. He said he has been cancer-free for eight years.
He graduated last year from the University of Oregon and now works as marketing director for a San Francisco-based prosthetics company.
By coincidence, a San Francisco police officer last week found another prosthetic leg on a street corner in the city's financial district, but have not located its owner, police spokesman officer Albie Esparza said.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)