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Fitzpatrick could cry foul

Let's go to the videotape.

If the sport of track and field had an instant replay provision, Hernando County native Kevin Fitzpatrick might be joining the likes of Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis and Dan O'Brien in Sweden this August at the World Championships.

Instead, the discus thrower will be one of millions watching the event on television, and while he won't say as much, an overzealous official may have cost him a chance to compete against the world's best.

In last weekend's USA/Mobil Championships in Sacramento, Calif., Fitzpatrick finished fifth in the discus, his throw of 204-9 placing him just short of the top three and a spot on the U.S. National Team.

He also had another toss over 200 feet in the meet, but it was a third throw, his best of the day, that might have been his ticket to Gothenburg, Sweden. Estimates put his throw at 209 plus, a distance that would have vaulted him into third place.

However, Fitzpatrick was immediately flagged by an official for a foul.

"The tape shows that I didn't foul," said Fitzpatrick. "But don't get me wrong. I did foul because the official said I did and that's all that matters. I'm not the first person something like this has happened to. The guys on the team are there fair and square and everyone on it deserves to be on it."

Former Olympian Mike Buncic won the competition with a throw of 212-8, and was followed by up-and-comer John Godina (211-11) and Olympian Randy Heisler (208-8).

"I desperately wanted to make the team," said Fitzpatrick, "but even though I didn't, I'm still happy with how I threw. It was a tough meet, the first in 10 years to have six guys over 200 feet. I might not be going to Sweden, but at least I'm back on track."

Fitzpatrick had been frustrated with his throwing in the first few months of 1995 and took a drastic step the Friday before the USA/Mobil Championships by altering his technique. "It was something I needed to do, and I'm glad I did it," he said. "I feel more comfortable now and I think it will pay dividends in the long run."

The long run, in this case, is about a year away. In what will be the most important meet of his life, Fitzpatrick will vie for a spot in the 1996 Summer Olympics, which will be held practically in his own back yard in Atlanta.

At next year's Olympic Trials, Fitzpatrick will go up against some familiar foes, all of them able and likely just as hungry to make the team.

"In some respects, it's a long way off, but in others, it's right around the corner," Fitzpatrick said. "There is time to get a little stronger, a little faster, and improve my technique, but not a whole lot.

"I'll probably be throwing at the World University Games in Tokyo, and in the U.S. vs. Great Britain meet, but I really need to get over to Europe. My agent is working on it right now, and I hope he's successful, because that's where the action is. And I want to be where the action is."