With a promising sporting career, Gwala had already competed in two global triathlons.
South African doctors were trying to save the legs of a top triathlete Wednesday after three men tried to chop his limbs off with a chainsaw.
Jackson said Gwala told him that the attackers sawed into his right calf (with a boring blade), damaging muscle, nerves and bone.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the attack had not yet been reported and so could not comment further on the incident. But the attack escalated, and De la Porte told News24: "He tried offering them his cellphone and money, but they pinned him down and tried to saw off his leg".
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Several attackers pulled Gwala off his bicycle as he cycled up a steep hill and sawed into his right calf, damaging muscle, nerves and bone, according to Jackson, who spoke by phone to the triathlete about the ordeal.
Apparently dissatisfied with Gwala's belongings, the attackers then tried sawing off his legs instead. "When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg". His training partner, Sandile Shange, says medical staff have told Mhlengi he will be able to run again.
"I have never heard of any enemies that he may have", he said.
Gwala has represented South Africa at worldwide competitions in Chicago in 2015 and in the Netherlands a year ago. Colleagues said the blade appeared to be too blunt and the men started on his second leg before stopping and running away. "He is a wonderful ambassador for the sport". "Absolutely disgusting! How safe are we on SA roads?". Olympic bronze medallist in the triathlon Henri Schoeman wrote on Twitter.