Chatham fencer Hans Moeller is just a little different.
His uniform is white, just like everyone else’s, but Moeller has a triangular red flag patch with a white cross on his sleeve and his hip. He has a lamé with his name printed on the back, but underneath, instead of the more common “USA,” Moeller’s reads “DEN.”
Moeller and his family emigrated from Denmark 21/2 years ago, when his father was transferred to his reinsurance company’s Morristown office. Hans had already fenced foil for two years in Copenhagen, learning more European techniques. Moeller tried sabre for one year here, and even dabbled in epee, before returning to the foil.
All of that has meshed into Moeller’s distinctive style.
Sabre made him more aggressive. Studying with Russian-trained coaches helped improve his footwork and refine his timing.
“Some of my skills are different than what you’d learn here,” Moeller said. “It kind of throws the other fencer off guard. People say it annoys them a lot, how different my fencing style is, but most of them don’t mean it in a bad way. They think it’s funny and strange at the same time.”
Moeller uses out-of-time counterattacks, according to Chatham coach Chris Palmer.
“Instead of dancing, he’s trying to step on your toes,” explained Palmer, a former Drew University fencer who coached Rutgers’ club team for three years. “He does what the other person is not expecting, so he gets a lot of single-light touches. He’s using his timing and his distance. … Everything he does is within the rules. It’s just unexpected.”
Chatham’s A-strip foil, Moeller went 6-1 in the preliminary round of the Morris County Championships last Saturday, qualifying for the individual finals. He also advised his teammates, helping the Cougars win both boys and girls team titles in just their third year as a varsity program.
Chatham will compete in the District 1 Tournament today at Hackettstown, alongside most of its Morris County opponents. Mendham, Morris Hills, Morris Knolls, Morristown, Randolph, and West Morris are also in District 1. Butler competes in District 4 at Fair Lawn on Feb. 2.
The Cougars hope to move on to the squad championships in late February, and qualify for the individual tournament on March 3 as well.
“I like the atmosphere,” said Moeller, who also trains at Fencing Sport Center in Springfield. “During the meets, we all fence individually, but our wins count toward the chance the team wins. Though it may seem like an individual sport, we all contribute to the team together.”