With nail competitions significantly down from years past, it seemed like everyone was looking forward to winning a medal at the Nail Olympics this year. About 200 nail competitors from around the globe showed up in Las Vegas to show off their acrylic, airbrush, nail art, wrap, and gel skills. The event was held June 1-3 during the International Hair and Nail Conference.

Now in its second year, the Nail Olympics has done a phenomenal job of breathing life back into the competition circuit – and allowing both first timers and veterans an equal chance to win. The event has gained so much recognition that it was even chronicled by a Wall Street Journal reporter and mentioned on a recent National Public Radio segment.

The event, originally conceived by principals at three major nail manufacturers – EZ Flow, ibd, and Too Much Fun – has certainly made a mark with both competitors and the nail industry in general.

“The turnout was fabulous,” says Debbie De Grummond, one of the event’s judges and a former competitor. “It says a lot about our industry. When I first started competing, there was great turnout at competitions, but then it seemed to fade.”

The turnout, in fact, was more than double that of last year’s event. About 130 competitors took part in the acrylic competitors took part in the acrylic competitors alone. The fact that many nail technicians participated in Division I competitions (which are for nail technicians who have never competed) was encouraging, says Lee Tomlinson, president of IBD and one of the event’s founders.

“We also had more people from the other countries participate,” he says, “Our whole idea is to simply get people to compete. It’s the biggest nail competition in the United States by far.”

And besides making people compete, Nail Olympics sponsors also made the event fun. A comedienne was on hand to entertain the crowd before the winners were named, and competitors were called on stage to pose for photos in country groups.

Contestants competed in five categories, including wraps, which debuted at the event this year. The competitions were also divided into three divisions: Division I (for students or newcomers who have never competed), Division II (for nail technicians who have competed but never placed in a nail competitions), and Division III (for competitors who have placed in a competition or are ranked by NAILS as a Top 25 competitor).

The incredible coming out of competitors was more than a little hard on the judges. “The competitors were so difficult to judge,” says Nadine Galli, who judged the acrylic and gel competitions and is a regional manager for OPI Products. “There were so many participants. It was a very international competition.”

This year’s judges included Dianne D’Agnolo, Tom Bachik, Lysa Comfort, Galli, Yoshio Mizuno, De Grummond, Debra Purtell, An-Li, Peggy Loden, and Theresa Pugliese.

Well-known competitor Tom Holcomb may very well be among next year’s judges, as he placed in three different competitions and was named overall Division III winner. According to Tomlinson, Holcomb will be invited back next year as a judge for his great showing at this year’s event.

At the Nail Olympics, all competitors were winners. Everyone who competed received a gift bag filled with goodies from the sponsors as well as a plaque.

2002 Nail Olympics sponsors including Backscratchers Salon Systems, Creative Nail Design, EZ Flow, ibd, Mehaz, NSI, OPI Products, Seche Inc., Star Nail Products, Toma Industries, and Too Much Fun.


Nail Olympics Winners

Division I

(never competed before)

Mixed Media Nail Art

1st Nancy Long

2nd Satorni Uchiyama

3rd Akiko Kumagai

4th Yumi Takahashi


1st Coco Akiyo Hayeno

2nd Dexter Do

3rd Akiko Kumagai

4th Yumi Takahashi


1st Akiko Akui

2nd Tracy Waterman

3rd Jessica Hoel

4th Lillie Franco Romero


1st Edra Webster

2nd Camelia Nalty

3rd Monica Ardiel

4th Mina Oe



1st Renee Tiumbull

2nd Susan Kepner

3rd Wen Yao Wang

4th Kelly Swain


Division II

(competed before, never won)

Mixed Media Nail Art

1st Jacqui Jefferd

2nd Ellen Torchia

3rd Akiko Matsuda

4th Melle Stripp


1st Rhonda Weiland

2nd Jacqui Jefferd

3rd Ellen Torchia

4th Pamela Dew


1st Fumiyo Tanimoto

2nd Kenichi Kawakami

3rd Nguyen Cao

4th Ellen Torchia


1st Nancy Marino

2nd Comelia Wolfrum

3rd Kyra Phillips

4th Heather Jessen



1st Hiromi Ogawa

2nd Leah Renee Pruitt

3rd Comelia Wolfrum

4th Annette Kline


Division III

(competed before and won, ranked on NAILS’ Top 25 list of competitors)

Mixed Media Nail Art

1st Laura Scott

2nd Ryoko Konashi

3rd Sanae Nojiri

4th Yuki Hada


1st Laura Scott

2nd Casey Raimer

3rd Chang Kyo Kim

4th Yajoi Ogasawari


1st Tom Holcomb

2nd Salina Rush

3rd John Hauk

4th Rita Horvath


1st Karin Strom

2nd John Hauk

3rd Tom Holcomb

4th Salina Rush



1st Yukiyo Lida

2nd Tom Holcomb

3rd Karin Strom

4th Yuki Hada


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.