Meet Victor Tu: UP’s Oregon state weightlifting champion
Sports > Meet Victor Tu: UP’s Oregon state weightlifting champion

Meet Victor Tu: UP’s Oregon state weightlifting champion

Tu doing a clean overhead at the Eastside Barbell Meet. Tu holds the record for snatch and clean and jerk in the 61kg weight class.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

Sitting in the corner of his parents' nail salon in Medford, Oregon, eight year-old Victor Tu heard the subtle squeak of the front door open. He looked up through the opening of the door, and across the shopping center parking lot, to a bright red sign that read, “ABK Karate.” 

He got up, walked across the parking lot, and began a love for strength training that would captivate him for years to come.

After practicing karate for six years up until middle school, Tu was finally old enough to go to the gym with his dad and try something he had never done before — weight lifting. 

Nine years later, in July of 2021, Tu broke the Oregon state record weightlifting in the 61kg weight class — with a snatch of 64 kg, and a clean-and-jerk of 90 kg. 

Following breaking the state record at this competition, Tu decided to take a break from competitive lifting to focus on his last year of college.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

Prior to the pandemic, Tu — a senior applied mathematics major — lifted daily at Beauchamp, and when COVID-19 shut down campus in 2020, Tu joined the gym and team at Industrial Strength in Portland.

For months leading up to this competition, Tu spent five days a week weightlifting for two hours with his coach, Mira Kwon Gracia. 

“He pays attention, he really focuses, and really tries,” Kwon Gracia said. “Even though he plays a cool guy, he applies himself really well, and he always wants to do a good job, I think that was a big contributor to his success.”

After a long drive to the USA weightlifting competition in Eugene, Tu warmed up, and stepped onto the platform for the first time in his life. With the faces of hundreds of strangers staring at him, Tu hit all three attempts at snatch, and all three attempts at clean-and-jerk — resulting in a perfect meet. 

Tu is able to draw on his experiences as a weight lifter to help beginners learn how to enjoy weightlifting.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

“Unlike other sports I've done like swimming or track, you kind of have a couple of seconds to think, but with lifting — it's instant,” Tu said. “Right before I come out onto the platform my coach will tell me something, so I'm thinking about that while I approach the bar, and then as soon as I actually lift the bar, it all kind of just goes out the window.” 

While Tu will carry this victory with him, he knows that there is always the opportunity to better himself and work to get stronger — one of the aspects of weightlifting that he loves.

“If my best clean-and-jerk is 90 kilos, and I clean-and-jerk 95 kilos, that shows that I objectively got better, or stronger,” Tu said. “I like that aspect of it, because in other sports you might not have such a strong line around ‘did I get better, or did I not get better.’ Weightlifting is also extremely technical, focusing on if you can execute the right technique or not while you're lifting, and that's fine because that always gives you something to try to improve on.” 

Tu spent up to 5 days a week lifting for two hours at a time in preparation for this competition.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

Whether it be physical or mental, constant self betterment is something Tu strives for every day, this is something that Tu’s teammates admire most about him. 

“It was so inspiring to be a teammate and see him come so far so quickly and ascend to the heights that he's recognized within our community at the state level,” Industrial Strength teammate Ryan Miller said. “It's just incredible because within his career, he is so young and he has so much room to grow, and so much potential.” 

While weightlifting is now a big part of his life, and something that he really enjoys, this was not always the case for Tu. 

“I hated lifting weights from the age of like 12 to 18,” Tu said. “I got into lifting weights because my dad was like ‘you're scrawny, you're small, so you have to get bigger’ and so I started lifting weights for the purpose of building more muscle and just looking bigger. I started enjoying weightlifting because it was about how strong you can become, and that to me is more enjoyable than caring about how I look every day.”

Tu at his parents nail salon in Medford, OR with his sister Leonie Tu.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

Weight lifting or strength training can seem intimidating at first, but Tu wants to encourage the UP community to push themselves to learn something that they are uncomfortable with — striving to become stronger or healthier, rather than meeting an aesthetic goal.

“I started when I was 12 and I couldn't even lift the bar, I was scrawny, and I hated everything about the gym,” Tu said. “I feel like just being able to progress into where I'm at now, where I just love the gym and I can lift a lot more and enjoy getting stronger. It’s important just to have the mindset that everyone starts somewhere and that you're not being judged for going into the gym to better yourself.” 

Something that Tu has noticed and is trying to combat on campus is that women tend to feel uncomfortable and intimidated in the weight room in Beauchamp. 

Tu doing a clean overhead at the Eastside Barbell Meet. Tu holds the record for snatch and clean and jerk in the 61kg weight class.

Submission from Victor Tu

He encourages his friends, and students who are just struggling to get started with lifting weights, to reach out to him or others for guidance. A close friend who took him up on this offer was Kasey DeMaria. 

“We were just talking about working out, and I was saying how I don’t like to lift weights and then he told me that I need to stop doing so much damn cardio and pick up a weight every now and then,” DeMaria said. “... So we went around the weight room to every single machine and he showed me how to use every machine in there so that I wouldn't feel like an idiot when I went to actually use them.” 

Tu can easily remember back to his first time lifting weights, watching his 12-year-old self struggle — relying on his dad’s help to lift the 45 pound bar.

Tu and his family. (From left to right) Victor Tu, Lilian Tu, My Tu, and Leonie Tu.

Photo courtesy of Victor Tu

“Just being able to see my progression from barely even lifting the bar to putting a lot more pounds on it is cool,” Tu said. “It allows me to be confident in what I can do in the future when I try and put my mind to something.”

For the remainder of his senior year, Tu is taking a step back from competitive weightlifting to focus on his education and soaking up the remains of his college experience. He is still lifting in Beauchamp to keep his form and technique.

In the future, Tu hopes to get back to competing, and eventually shooting to compete on the national level. 

“I'm not that caliber yet,” Tu said. “But I want to be.”

Haviland Stewart is the Living Section Editor at The Beacon. She can be reached at