Swimming in the pool IS a practice in sprinting. That should not be the shocking thing for anyone. The shocking piece should be that so few coaches look at it that way. It is even more shocking given the success that is being had with this mindset by established programs. The convential wisdom in swimming is outdated and counterproductive.
Percentage-wise the vast majority of the events in the pool are sprints. The 50, all the 100s and the 200s are 2 minute efforts and under. The outliers are the 500 free and 400 IM (which by all accounts are VO2 max efforts) and the mile. Of all of these events, the mile is the only real endurance event. If we make a time comparison of these events to Track running, we find that the 50 = the 200 meters, the 100's = the 400 meters and the 200's = the 800 meter events. However, swimmers train upwards of 10-15,000 yards a day. Our training is up to 100 to 150 times longer than any of the main events we swim. It seems overkill. I doubt highly that Michael Johnson and Usain Bolt are running 15 miles a day.
If we turn to track or other sprint sports, like track cycling or rowing. We find that the elite athletes have broken down their sport into the elements of speed. A great deal of technique work is done to practice the specifics of the race. 200 meter runners, run turns and practice starts. Rowers work their strength in the shell and in the gym and track cycling sprinters have resembled power lifters in their look lately. In terms of fitness, non-swimming sprinters spend their time on training very short bursts and longer easy pieces. The science of blood testing (both for Lactate threshold and for vo2max) is used in all of these other sports and has shown the benefit of this type of training.
Swimming alone seems to be determined to hold on to the old guard. Swimmers from major programs, steeped in the traditions of the sport are hired to coaching jobs and perpetuate the conventional wisdom. They train huge volume with little or know technique work and hope that the strong will survive. Their programs are littered with broken swimmers and broken dreams. It is time to get out of the box in our sport. Its time to get creative. I say its time to have some fun.