South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala is recovering in hospital after a roadside attack left him seriously injured, as unknown assailants seemingly attempted to hack off his legs with a chainsaw on Tuesday.
Gwala was on a training ride in Durban when he was dragged off the road by three attackers, and they attempted to cut off his legs with a blunt chainsaw. He was found by a local security company and taken to hospital.
Fellow triathlete and Olympic silver medalist Henri Schoeman tweeted about the attack on Tuesday evening.
Gwala's athletic sponsor Sue de la Porte confirmed that the initial motive for the attack appeared to be robbery but it escalated, telling News24: "He tried offering them his cellphone and money, but they pinned him down and tried to saw off his leg."
Dennis Jackson‚ director of the Elite Athlete Development programme, told TimesLIVE that Gwala was awake post-surgery, though his prognosis was not yet clear.
Jackson said: "We have spoken with Mhlengi. He is in hospital‚ in the trauma unit of the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital‚ awaiting transfer to another hospital. Our sports doctor has spoken to him. He is conscious.
"I haven't quite got to grips with exactly what happened. It seems like they pulled him into a bush while he was on a training ride. They had a chainsaw and went for one of his legs‚ which is the concerning part.
"We don't yet know how far they went in‚ whether they were trying to cut it off‚ or what the circumstances are. All we know is that Mhlengi is alive‚ he is talking and that he is under medical care. We don't have the whole story as yet.
"Mhlengi doesn't know why they left [in the midst of the attack]. He dragged himself out of the bush onto the road and a private security car picked him up and took him to the nearest hospital. From what we understand‚ he is in a cast.
"What the damage to his leg is‚ we will know in the next few days I guess."