Feb. 20 (UPI) -- UPI photographer Kevin Dietsch won a first-place prize in the University of Missouri's Pictures of the Year International contest this week for his photograph of Austrian skier Stephanie Brunner.
Judges in the competition awarded Dietsch the top spot in the "Olympic Action" category Sunday.
"POYi is one of the most prestigious photo contests in the world so to be recognized by them was quite a surprise and I am very honored that myself and UPI were recognized," Dietsch said. "It is especially exciting to be recognized in the Olympic Action category being that it is such a high-profile event where you are competing against the best sports photographers in the world."
The photo, taken Feb. 15, 2018, shows Brunner as she participates in the Ladies' Giant Slalom competition at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Brunner did not finish the race and American Mikaela Shiffrin took home gold in the event.
Dietsch said he used a Nikon D5 with an 800mm lens, the camera's largest commercial lens available. He said the camera was pointed almost directly up to capture the skiers as they came down the steep hill.
"I remember noticing as skiers went down the mountain, poofs of snow were being kicked up and caught in the light as they made it through the slalom gates," he said. "My goal was to try and catch the snow illuminated in the light as the skier went past.
"I was very happy with this result."
Dietsch, who has covered UPI's Washington, D.C., bureau since 2005, won first place in the "Sports Feature" category in last year's competition for his photo of Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve celebrating scoring the winning run in Game 2 of the ALCS.
Dietsch earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in photojournalism from Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife and two children.
The University of Missouri's School of Journalism began the POYi contest in 1944 with the stated mission "to pay tribute to those press photographers and newspapers which, despite tremendous war-time difficulties, are doing a splendid job; to provide an opportunity for photographers of the nation to meet in open competition; and to compile and preserve ... a collection of the best in current, home-front press pictures."
The Missouri School of Journalism administers the contest along with Fujifilm, MSNBC and National Geographic.
2018 Winter Olympics: Moments from skiing