'Rivalry behind chainsaw attack on triathlon star Mhlengi Gwala's legs'

Mhlengi Gwala1

Gwala was on a training ride on his bicycle before dawn in the coastal city of Durban when he was dragged off the road by three attackers, and they attempted to cut off his legs with a tiresome blade. The men then started the chainsaw and began cutting. It's unclear why, TimesLive said.

South Africa's deputy sports minister, Gert Oosthuizen, described the attack on the "star athlete" as "totally unacceptable" and said police are investigating.

Gwala's ordeal is eerily similar to the 1994 beating of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, whose leg was nearly broken by Tonya Harding's husband - an attack that left other athletes reeling.

Police are reportedly treating the incident as attempted murder.

"He thought they were coming to rob him, stopped and gave them his phone but they didn't want his phone, didn't want his watch or bicycle", Shange said. Gwala also offered the men money, News 24 said.

Jackson said Gwala told him that the attackers sawed into his right calf, damaging muscle, nerves and bone.

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When they got to the bone and couldn't cut anymore, they started in on his left leg.

Dennis Jackson, director of the Elite Athlete Development programme for KwaZulu-Natal province, revealed that he spoke with Gwala, 27, who was awake after having surgery. He called the incident "really freaky".

"I have never heard of any enemies that he may have", said Jackson, via AP.

"We don't have the whole story as yet".

The BBC reports that Gwala was training to compete at the national championships at the end of March. Gwala is expected to make a full recovery, but will take months of rehabilitation and physical therapy in order to gain back the strength and mobility he once possessed.

Gwala's training partner Sandile Shange told the BBC the 26-year-old was stable in hospital and his injuries were not life-threatening.

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