University City

Former Charlotte 49ers track star has Olympic dreams

Plenty of athletes have competed in both the summer and winter Olympics. Some have even medaled in both.

If everything goes as planned, a former Charlotte 49ers track-and-field athlete could distinguish himself by participating in both the summer and winter games, but for different countries.

Abe Morlu, a 2003 UNC Charlotte graduate, and his U.S. bobsledding teammates are competing in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup season. They’re trying to qualify their sled for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 7-23.

A native of Liberia, Morlu was a Liberian citizen until 2008. He represented his home country in the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a member of its 400-meter relay team.

Morlu, 32, lives in Phoenix, Ariz., but it’s fair to say he has been a world traveler over the past 10 or 15 years. He said he has always been the adventurous type, starting in childhood, when he enjoyed such sports as gymnastics and inline skating.

“My mom tried to nip it in the bud,” Morlu said. “But kids like to do things their parents tell them not to do. It makes it that much more fun.

“I don’t like to be bored. I don’t have a wife, no kids. I guess I will have a lot of stories to tell my kids someday.”

Morlu’s family moved from Liberia in 1988 and eventually settled in Boone. He attended Watauga High School, where he ran track and played football.

From 1999 to 2003, Morlu was a member of the 49ers’ track and field team. His name still appears on the top-10 list in several events, including eighth in the 200 meters and 400 meters in outdoor track, and sixth in the 55 meters and 60 meters in indoor track.

Morlu graduated in 2003 and continued competing for Liberia. He ran in the outdoor World Championships in 2001 and 2003 and in the indoor World Championships in 2010.

Rarely turning down an opportunity for adventure, Morlu started performing as a professional motorcycle stunt rider in 2007. In 2008, the former high school running back and safety tried out for a Canadian Football League team.

In 2009, while he was in Germany preparing for the outdoor track and field world championships, Morlu caught the attention of a Swiss bobsledder. Bobsled pushers often are strong track-and-field athletes, just as Charlotte track coach Bob Olesen was before he made the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics as a bobsled athlete.

By the middle of 2010, the 6-foot-1, 216-pound Morlu was offered a contract to join the Swiss national team. Citizenship rules are much less strict outside Olympic competition.

Morlu competed for Switzerland from November 2011 through January 2013. He performed well enough, he said, that his teammates asked him to pursue Swiss citizenship so he could compete with them in the Olympics; Morlu declined.

Last August, Morlu accepted an offer to try out for the U.S. national bobsled team. As one of about 30 participants at a push competition in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Morlu finished third and was selected to be on driver Nick Cunningham’s team.

“I like sliding down the track at 90 miles per hour,” Morlu said. “Tracks can be up to a mile long. The result can come down to hundredths of a second. Anything can happen.”

Through three World Cup events, the four-man team’s results have been mixed. Morlu said the team’s coaches have changed the lineup some.

Through the end of January, the team will compete in five more World Cup races, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Morlu is optimistic about qualifying for the Olympics. If it doesn’t happen, he said, he will retire from bobsledding and return to his banking job. He is interested in moving back to North Carolina.

Women begin 4-game homestand

Entering today’s home game with Furman, the women’s basketball team is 6-6. Charlotte has been consistent in that it has not won or lost more than two games in a row this season.

Today’s game begins a four-game homestand. After a Jan. 3 matchup with UNC Wilmington, Charlotte will host Conference USA opponents Old Dominion and North Texas on Jan. 8 and Jan. 11, respectively.