NEW YORK -- The three 1972 Olympic gold medalists, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, haven't changed very much. Mark Spitz, Bob Seagren and Frank Shorter look ready to enter the arena again. Spitz, in fact, is doing just that, making a comeback at 40.

"It's going real well and I feel good about it," said Spitz, winner of seven swimming gold medals in 1972 at Munich. "I was in Colorado Springs to be tested in this flume that is sort of a wind tunnel with water. You swim in place and they analyze your stroke, the technical aspect of your stroke and the amount of forward propulsion.

"They said I had the most efficient stroke they have seen in the butterfly. . . . At 22, the stroke was similar but the technique was not as good."

In two years, at the Barcelona Olympics, Spitz hopes to swim the 100-yard butterfly. "My workout swims have surpassed what I was able to do at 22," said Spitz, more than a year into his comeback. "I weigh the same at 40 as I did at 22. When I retired at 22, I did it because everyone else did and I had a pretty interesting swan song."

Both Shorter and Seagren laud the swimmer's comeback. But Shorter isn't about to enter a world-class marathon, nor is Seagren ready to pole vault again.

"I think what Mark is trying is possible," said Shorter, 41. "There are a few athletes in all sports who you look at and say, 'He is something special.' There is something special about Mark's talent."

Seagren, 44, said Spitz's specialty sport makes the comeback feasible: "It would be physically impossible for me to compete in the pole vault now. You won't see athletes in team sports attempting it. But swimming is somewhat different, and Mark always has been the most efficient at it."

Back in the pool after 18 years, Spitz said: "I look at it as being easier to be the hunter than the hunted. In the past, Mark Spitz was the hunted, the one everyone wanted to shoot down. Now, Mark Spitz has the best of all worlds. Whatever I achieve is great."