Coaches and Directors

Coaches and Directors
Coaching Staff
Tommaso Panizza Head Coach/National + Provincial

This is Tom's 2nd season as Head Coach of the Thunderbolts and 16th season as a coach. After 10 years coaching in Italy, he moved to Toronto where he worked in NYAC as an assistant coach of Murray Drudge and developed the National Development program achieving important results at a National level, topped with an Ontario and a Canadian Age Group Record. In 2018 he left Toronto and he moved to Thunder Bay to take the lead of the Bolts. Coach Tom considers the team as the foundation for personal achievements, and he believes that hard work and commitment are important components of any athletes' growth to become not just good swimmers, but good people.

Tiia Ovaska Assistant Head Coach/Junior Development

Tiia is joining us for her second season with the Thunderbolts. Tiia comes from Sudbury with experience as both a swimmer and coach with Nickel City Aquatics for more than 10 years prior to moving to Thunder Bay in 2018. She is organized, has a background in graphic design, and readily accepts the challenge of assisting Tommaso with administrative duties on top of coaching the Junior and Senior Development groups. Tiia believes that although a strong swimmer may be built from their coach or teammates, it is the families and community support which raise strong swimmers, students, and goal oriented people to success.

Andy Ritchie Senior Development Coach

When the Thunderbolts started in 1972, Andy was an original member of the club training under legendary coach Don Talbot. Within a few years, he was named to the Canadian National Team and remained there for five years. He earned a spot on multiple international tour teams, broke National and Commonwealth records, and earned a spot in the finals of the 400 IM at the Olympics in Montreal in 1976 at the young age of 17.

Andy then earned a full scholarship to the University of Florida where he set numerous varsity and state records and then continued to have multiple gold medal performances swimming at four Canadian University Championships. He was a bronze medalist at the World Student Games in Sophia, Bulgaria in 1977. Andy had the honour of being inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and will be inducted into the LU Wall of Fame in October 2019. He is currently very active as a Masters swimmer setting numerous Provincial and National records over a 20-year period and attempting to chase down a world record for Canada. 

Andy began his professional coaching career in 1982 under National Team coach Derek Snelling, becoming Senior Age Group Coach overseeing a staff of seven coaches and over 200 swimmers. He also assisted Coach Snelling with National Team legends such as Mark Tewksbury, Tom Ponting, and many others. He has been the Head Coach of the Thunder Rays Masters Swim Team since 2014 overseeing growth from about 20 swimmers to the current number of 65 with a waiting list of over 30. He led the Thunder Rays to their first Provincial title in March 2019. 

Andy is extremely honoured and excited to join the coaching team of the Thunder Bolts!

Tracy Kosinski Pre-Comp Coordinator/Prospects Coach

Coach Tracy comes from Toronto with over two decades of swimming and coaching experience from the Intro to National levels. Tracy grew up in and coached with the North York Aquatic Club, where swimming gave her the tools to survive life’s hard lessons. In return, she takes pride instilling that discipline into the kids she teaches. She knows that success is earned by dedication and hard work, but more importantly, knows swimming challenges you in ways you never thought possible. Tracy loves working with the younger kids and teaching them the swimming FUNdamentals, so that they are conditioned to confidently take on new challenges as they move up in the club. Tracy will take on her first Thunder Bay winter by cross-country skiing and eating lots of spaghetti with Coach John!

Zoe Hunt Assistant Prospects Coach

Zoe is currently a grade 12 French immersion student at Hammarskjöld High School. She swam for the Bolts for 10 years, making and competed in Trials in 2019. She is very excited to coach again this year and is looking forward to this new season.

Brooke Hulina Intro Coach
Madison Halvorsen Intro Coach

Madison Halvorsen started swimming with the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts when she was 4. She was a national level swimmer in the 50m and 100m freestyle and carried that over to the University of Ottawa. She swam with the varsity team where she received countless experiences and opportunities within the sport. She is now back in Thunder Bay as a first-year paramedic student at Confederation College and serves as a Medical Technician with the Canadian Armed Forces. After volunteering with the thunderbolts throughout high school, she is looking forward to the 2019/2020 year.

Jon Balabuck Assistant Intro Coach

 Jon likes spaghetti.

Emily Murphy Assistant Intro Coach
Hannah Leveque Pre-Competitive Coach

Hi there! I'm Hannah, one of our pre-competitive coaches. After being a member of the Bolts community since 2008, I have developed a passion for swimming and coaching. Being a member of this wonderful team has allowed me to develop essential interpersonal skills and has also introduced me to many incredible people who I now consider a second family. I am a firm believer that swimming fosters essential qualities such as teamwork, responsibility, and leadership; it provides an opportunity for youth to thrive and reach their true potential, not only as an athlete but as an individual. As a coach, I like to focus on the development of new skills in and out of the pool through hard work and fun. I can’t wait to see what the new season brings for each swimmer!

Julia Siver Pre-Competitive Coach

Hi everyone. I’m Julia Siver. I have been a Thunderbolt Athlete for over 7 years and have loved swimming since the beginning. Being apart of this team has taught me time management skills, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and determination. These skills have helped me not only as an athlete but also in school and life. As a coach, my goal is that each athlete has a positive experience, learn new skills and reaches their swimming potential.

Rachael Brown Pre-Competitive Coach

My name is Rachael Brown and I am a grade 11 student at Hammarskjold High School. After swimming with the Thunder Bay Thunderbolts for over 10 years, I am very excited to be joining the coaching team. I look forward to sharing my love for swimming with younger swimmers to create a fun and positive learning environment, and show them how amazing it is to be part of the Bolts family!

Board of Directors