world

From chainsaw attack to dreams of gold

A South African triathlete's remarkable return to the sport after a gruesome chainsaw attack.

By Michelle Cohan

Published February 11, 2019

IRONMAN

South African lifeguard Mhlengi Gwala took up triathlon competitively about five years ago.

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He has competed in the ITU World Triathlon Finals and various half Ironman races around the globe

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March 2018

Gwala was out for an early morning run in Durban, South Africa, when a group of men attacked him.

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The assailants pulled out a chainsaw and began to saw into his legs.

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Warning

SOME OF THE FOLLOWING IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC CONTENT. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

The chainsaw cut through the majority of his right leg, and part of his left leg.

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Miraculously, the chainsaw stopped working and the men fled, Gwala said.

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Gwala was rushed to the hospital, where doctors were able to save his legs.

@mhle_gwala

The doctors told him he wouldn't be able to run for at least two years.

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JULY 2018

Gwala proved them wrong. He began biking and running again with the help of physical therapy four months post-op.

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Gwala has qualified as a para-athlete, with his sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

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[Tokyo 2020] makes me wake up every morning, because I need to get strong, and if I'm going there, make South Africa proud of me.

Mhlengi Gwala

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The police still have no leads on the men who attacked Gwala.

I forgive them. I don't know them. But I forgive them. I can't forget. I'll always remember. Every day, every hour.

Mhlengi Gwala

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Gwala first got into sports as a way to clean up his life after a drug and alcohol addiction, he said.

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I just wake up and work hard. Nobody died from working hard.

Mhlengi Gwala