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Top coach returns to Brandon

After spending three years coaching in Ft. Lauderdale, accomplished international coach Peter Banks will return to develop an elite swim program at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center.

Banks, who will coach Blue Wave swimming and be the director of sports development, officially will be on the deck at the Brandon facility Nov. 1.

Banks, 49, was an assistant coach for the Irish Olympic team in 1988 and the U.S. Olympic team in 2000.

In his first 12 years coaching the Blue Wave, he trained Brooke Bennett, an Olympic three-time gold medalist, and Maritza Correia, a silver-medal winner in the 2004 Olympics. Both trained with Banks in Ft. Lauderdale. He also trained numerous national level swimmers, many who went on to compete at the college level.

"I met with some of the directors, who now operate the facility, and discussed their vision for swimming and plans for the facility," Banks said. "They want to redevelop a program to train elite swimmers. I would like to have a swimmer in the 2008 Olympics and more after that."

When Banks left, the Blue Wave program slowly dropped from more than 150 swimmers to about a dozen. Then Laura Ghilik-Micu began to revive the program a little more than a year ago. Ghilik-Micu, a level V coach certified by the American Swim Coaches Association, more than tripled the number of swimmers there. Mio Vasic, a certified level III coach, is the assistant. Both will remain to assist Banks. Ghilik-Micu will be the associate head coach and Vasic will be an assistant.

"I will be the age-group coach and Mio will help me," Ghilik-Micu said. "Peter will work with the elite swimmers and supervise our overall training for the younger kids. It will be a valuable education for me to be able to work with (Banks). We will make a great training team"

Added Vasic:"I am thrilled and excited about being part of this coaching team. If I were younger, I would put on a swim suit and get into the pool to swim for Peter and Laura."

When Banks came to Florida from Ireland, he was looking for two things: a 50-meter pool and an opportunity to prove he could coach elite swimming.

"Would you believe that in all of Ireland, there was not a single 50-meter pool," he said. "I still have to prove myself, but I will have the total support of the board of directors and I already know there are some talented swimmers around here. The board has plans to build an indoor pool and remodel the big one."

During Banks' three years in Ft. Lauderdale, his family remained in Tampa.

""My wife is very happy I am back here and so am I," he said. "The first thing I plan to do is get to know the kids and learn of their personal goals. Then I will present my goals and start working. The kids must have fun. That is primary. But they will absolutely have to work hard, too."