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Attackers try to saw off South African athlete's legs

08 March 2018

A crowdfunding initiative was announced on the Ironman South Africa Facebook page‚ as the organisation expressed its sadness at the attack on the triathlete‚ while sending him "best wishes and a speedy recovery".

Triathlete Mhlengi Gwala was badly injured when robbers attacked him with a chainsaw on Tuesday morning, News24 reported.

According to Dennis Jackson, director of the elite athlete program in KwaZulu-Natal province, the attackers damaged muscle, nerves and bone in the right calf but missed a main artery.

The attackers also started sawing into Gwala's left leg before fleeing, enabling the athlete to crawl to a road and flag down a passing auto to take him to a hospital.

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Gwala's training partner Sandile Shange told the BBC that the attackers didn't want Gwala's phone, bike or watch.

It is alleged that the men dragged Gwala into a secluded pathway near UKZN, where they held him down and tried to saw off his leg.

Triathlete Henry Schoemen, who won bronze for South Africa at the Rio Olympics in 2016, called the attack on Gwala "disgusting". "When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg".

Apparently dissatisfied with Gwala's belongings, the attackers then tried sawing off his legs instead. After the attackers fled, Gwala crawled to a road and flagged down a passing vehicle to take him to a hospital, Jackson said to the newspaper.

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"I haven't quite got to grips with exactly what happened".

Gert Oosthuizen, the deputy sports minister for South Africa, has already spoken out about the attack, calling it a "totally unacceptable" assault on a "star athlete" of the country. "He is a wonderful ambassador for the sport".

The incident was confirmed on Twitter by Gwala's fellow athlete, Henri Schoeman.

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Attackers try to saw off South African athlete's legs