Ngerulmud, Palau
The Palau Swimming Association: Increasing Participation in Water-Based Physical Activity in the South Pacific

Photography by Max Pinckers

Max Pinckers

The choice of Palau as a focus area for Olympism Made Visible was inspired by the active role of Judy Otto in the community and her nomination from the Palau Women and Sports Commission for the IOC Women and Sports Awards, for which she received the Continental Trophy for 2017 for Oceania. As President of the Palau Swimming Association (PSA), Otto has encouraged more of the country’s women to take up the sport, while also enhancing their commitment to health and active living. Her commitment focuses on the areas of sport for all; health and well-being; and promoting gender equality in sport.

Working hand in hand with the Palau National Olympic Committee (PNOC), the PSA sees swimming as an essential life skill. The mission of the PSA is to develop the sport of swimming for purposes of health and safety, fitness, recreation and competition within the Republic, regionally and internationally. In pursuit of this mission, the PSA aims to assist every Palauan resident to master essential swimming skills to ensure safety in and around water and to prepare and field national teams and/or individual representatives for competition at regional and international levels.

One challenge faced by the PSA is human resources and lack of a tradition of formal swimming. Palauans, of course, swim for sustenance (e.g. fishing), but the skills needed for fishing are quite different from those needed for recreational swimming. The pool of adult trainers is relatively small. A small group of locally based trainers is slowly expanding, especially as former national team members join the association to assist with training. As the national team breaks national records and receives local publicity, more parents become aware of swimming and encourage their children to join in. Most important has been the support by the Ministry of Education to introduce swimming in schools.

Max Pinckers


Max Pinckers (b. 1988, Belgium) is an artist based in Brussels, Belgium. His work explores visual storytelling strategies in documentary photography and the relationship between aesthetics, images and their subjects. His works manifest in the form of self-published artist books and exhibition installations such as The Fourth Wall (2012), Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (2014), Trophy Camera v0.9 (2017) and Margins of Excess (2018). Pinckers is currently a doctoral researcher and lecturer in the arts at the School of Arts / KASK, Ghent, Belgium.

He has won international awards and has exhibited at MOCAK in Poland, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States and the Centre for Fine Arts - BOZAR in Belgium, among others. In 2015, he founded the independent publishing house Lyre Press; and was recently among the Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Arts.


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