The past year in competitions was marked by continuing trends, for better or worse. Again, the pool of available competitions shrunk, making it more difficult for both veteran and novice competitors to exercise their skills and earn points. Yet while the opportunities to participate may have diminished, determined techs kept the competitive spirit alive.

The old guard of nail competitors held court this year, dominating the top 10 list and maintaining a monopoly on the top three spots. In fact, the 2001 top three competitors reprised their roles in 2002 - just in a different order. As in past years, veteran competitors John Hauk, Salina Rush, and Lorena Marquez, all familiar with the winner’s circle, set the pace for the competition.

The year also saw the return of a star to the competition stage Tom Holcomb, who had bowed out of active competition in order to pursue his career as a mentor and educator made a triumphant return to the circuit and staged an upset at this year’s Nail Olympics as the overall Division III winner. This year’s competitors may very well see him at the 2003 Nail Olympics - as a judge. Holcomb’s strong showing prompted organizers to invite him to return in a judging capacity.

As in the past year, SuperPoints competitions played an important role in determining the Top 25 list. With the increasingly reduced competition opportunities, SuperPoints events allowed large groups of competitors to bolster their point earnings and get the most bang for their buck. The Nail Olympics alone attracted more than 200 competitors from around the world and offered competitions in acrylic, airbrush, nail art, wrap, and gel categories.

#1 Hauk Snags First Place

 After six years of competing, John Hauk of Centerville, Ohio, has sculpted, wrapped and airbrushed his way into the top spot on the Top 25 list. “My goal this year was to be number one and I had a strategy, I targeted the SuperPoints shows,” he says. “I usually do about eight to 10 shows a year and this year was no different in that respect. I just happened to dominate many of the competitions I participated in.”

Hauk admits that competing can get nerve-wracking, “Salina Rush, Lorena Marquez, and I are always competing and it seems like you’re never quite sure who’s in the lead. They win some events, and then I do, it keeps me on my toes, which is good.” Hauk also finds inspiration from former competitor and friend Trang Nguyen of Odyssey Nail Systems in Orlando, Fla. “Trang has really helped me out with the products and I have to give him credit,” says Hauk.

Hauk does not plan to rest on his laurels. However, having gotten a taste of glory, he’s already established lofty goals for this next year.” My personal goal is to win everything I’m in,” he says diplomatically “Oh, I’m just going to say it. My goal is to be number one again next year - no one’s trying for second.”

#2 Rush Maintains Momentum. Last year Salina Rush of Studio 10 Hair & Nail Design in Wooster, Ohio, took no prisoners. She claimed the top spot in the 2001 Top 25 list, was named NAILS’ 2001-2002 Nail Tech of the Year, and won the 2001-2002 Salon of the Year (1-5 techs) award. In 2002, she cut back a bit — but not by much.“I wanted to stay on the Top 25 list, but I really didn’t want to put all the time and money into it that I did last year,” she says. Rush has other things to worry about. In addition to running her salon, she finds time to teach independent continuing education classes — including one on (surprise, surprise) competing. Showing true sportsmanship, Rush is delighted with her friend John Hauk’s success.“I am so proud of him,” she says.“He works very hard and he very well deserves to be number one.” And she should know.

#3 Marquez Keeps It Up. 

There is a lot to be said about tenacity, and Lorena Marquez, owner of At Your Fingertips in Watsonville, Calif., could write a book on the subject. A diligent competitor, Marquez has placed solidly on the Top 25 list for six years, and has made it to the top three for the past two years. Determined to reach her goal of being the number-one competitor, Marquez plans on competing next year as well.And while she may not have reached her goal of being number one just yet, Marquez has learned a valuable lesson in her years of competing — how to save money. Just last year “I spent $15,000 competing, this year I lowered that amount to about $3,000,” says Marquez. Her secret:“Going to local competitions and making all of my competitions count — even if I don’t get first place in every event.”

#4 Out With a Bang

Showing that he still has what it takes, one of the most recognizable faces in the nail industry,Tom Holcomb, took to the stage one last time at the 2002 Nail Olympics and took home more than just glory. With medals around his neck and much adoration from the international crowd, Holcomb was named the overall winner of the Division III category.The globetrotting dynamo has no plans for competing in the foreseeable future, but we will surely see his protégés continue to appear on the Top 25 list for                                                          years to come.

#5 International Flare 

The first of two international competitors to make it to the top 10, Karin Strom of Gothenburg, Sweden, rounds out the top five. Her appearance on the Top 25 list is a testament to the importance of SuperPoints events as all of her points were earned at a single SuperPoints event — the Nail Olympics.This is Strom’s first time on the list, so keep an eye out for her in the future.

#6 Steady As She Goes

 Rita Horvath of American Beauty Center in Boca Raton, Fla., has competed for six years and first made an appearance on the Top 25 list in 1998.

Always a consistent competitor, Horvath enjoys the sculpting competitions and counts the Premiere show in Orlando, Fla., among her favorite events.

#7 For the Love of the Game 
Ask Laura Scott of Don Allens Salon in Santa Clarita, Calif., her favorite competition or show, and she will answer the Nail Olympics. And the Nail Olympics like her too — in 2001 Scott took home Top of All World, and in 2002 she got two first-place wins in the mixed media nail art and airbrush competitions.

#7 Creative Drive 

We at NAILS knew that Ellen Torchia of North Bend, Wash., is special — after all, we asked her to be our featured artist for Nail Art Studio in October 2002.What we didn’t know is that Torchia is an exceptionally strong competitor. In 2002 Torchia placed in mixed media nail art, airbrush, and wraps competitions. Not a bad start to a competition career!

#9 Artistry in the UK 

 The second international competitor to make it into the top 10, Jacqui Jefferd of Hampshire, UK, is a nail art junkie. A member of Team Creative, Jefferd’s specialty is “out of this world” fashion nails. A salon owner and Creative’s 1996 Educator of the Year, Jefferd’s gets her nail art fix as a member of the UK artistic team “The Untouchables.”


Amy Cooper Becker of West Allisa, Wis., has been competing for 11 years and is a fixutre on the Top 25 list. "I have fun no matter what event I'm competing in," she says. 


Renee Tumball of the Virgin Islands is the picture of shock after winning first place in a Division 1 acrylic competition -- her first competition ever. 


Akiko Skui, an international competitor and owner of Oriental Nail Co., Ltd. in Tokyo, is a celebrated nail artist and competition judge in Japan. 


Diana Tingle of Oviedo, Fla., has been a nail tech for 23 years and an active competitor since 1985. "Competition has always been the best way for me to learn new things, sharpen my skills, and is the key to keeping excitement in my career," she says. Now a dedicated mentor as well, Tingle hopes to open a nail school in the future. 

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