The kids were lined up in chairs on the deck of the plaza overlooking the pool at the Olympic Winter Sports Park, glad to be back on solid ground.
One girl had a butterfly bandage on her nose. A boy was holding onto his mom.Hey, you take a bunch of fearless gymnasts and put them on skis and tell them, "OK, somersault into that pool over there," and the intimidation factor is going to soar.
Welcome to the Sports to Sports Program, as administered by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, a program designed to take gifted dryland athletes and introduce them to complementary, and more slippery, sports of winter.
As insurance underwriters blanch, it is a program to warm the hearts of local Olympic overseers, whose thinking is, "Hey, we're supposed to be the WINTER sports capital."
Anyway, Bob Salerno had the kids' undivided attention as he stood at the speaker's rostrum because he was telling them that, just like them, he was largely unaware that a sport like freestyle skiing even existed when he was 12 years old - and yet, by the time he was 20 he was a world champion. Twice.
Then Bob sat down and Olympic bronze medal diver Cynthia Potter stood up.
Cynthia's message was a simple one: Don't drink and dive.
She told the kids that when she went to the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 she was 22 years old and the odds-on favorite.
But then she did something stupid. She trained at the Hofbrau, which is German for "getting plastered."
Nights at the Hofbrau followed by days on the springboard did not mix. She wound up spraining her feet and instead of finishing first finished seventh.
Yes, it was a sobering message for young teenagers to hear, but they were listening.
Cynthia's story had a happy ending.
As she passed around her actual bronze medal for all the kids to touch and see, she explained why she was able to win that medal in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal even though, at 26, she was old enough in diver's years to qualify for the senior citizen specials at Denny's.
She'd learned her lesson from Munich, and stopped partying and started focusing.
"The reason most people fail is because they trade want they want MOST for what they want NOW," said Cynthia Potter, and you could have heard a ski drop in the pool below.
The passion behind this whole sport-to-sport deal is wrapped up in a ball of human adrenalin named Bob Bills.
Bills is a former freestyle ski aerialist himself, and he's never really come down. After Cynthia's speech, Bob choked up with emotion as he handed out camp awards to the kids. You can imagine what he'll be like at the Olympic Games themselves. NBC would do well to have one camera permanently trained on Bob Bills, a nonstop "glory of the Games" photo opportunity.
A hundred more Bob Bills, and a hundred less people at board meetings deciding whether he gets funded, and we're all better off.
It's Bob's vision that in the next 3 1/2 years, before the Salt Lake Games of 2002, that hundreds, maybe thousands, of unsuspecting athletes get a chance to be introduced to the games of winter, be it wheelchair rugby players learning about sledge hockey, track sprinters learning how to make themselves useful by jump-starting a bobsled, or go-for-broke gymnasts who can do that triple somersault with a pike while wearing a pair of Rossignols.
And that's far from all. The vision extends - indeed, this is the anchor - to spreading the Olympic ideals of strong morals, responsible ethics and effective work habits.
And the cool part there is, the kids don't even know that's what's going on.