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"The complainant alleged that on March 6, 2018 at about 03:20 in the morning whilst cycling in Rick Turner Road, Umbilo, he was dragged by three unknown men into a bush", said police spokeswomen Captain Nqobile Gwala, no relation to the athlete.

Remarkably, Gwala was able to get away and drag his mangled body to emergency services.

"I wish all the best to Mhlengi Gwala in his operation and road to recovery".

Gwala, who was set to compete in the South African national championships this month, was undergoing a five-hour surgery for his injuries, said Dennis Jackson, director of the elite athlete program for the KwaZulu-Natal province. The assailants missed a main artery.

"He thought they wanted to rob him of his phone, his watch or the bicycle, so he offered it all to them but they did not want that". Gwala reportedly attempted to give the attackers his cell phone and money, but they pinned him down and sawed into his leg.

"The doctor says the blood flow is good, the only problem is with his tendons", said Gwala's friend and training partner Sandile Shange.

A crowdfunding campaign has been started with the aim of raising funds for the Durban triathlete who nearly had both his legs cut off with a chainsaw on Tuesday.

Jackson said 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.

A South African police vehicle taking suspects to court in Cape Town.

Gwala has represented South Africa at worldwide competitions in Chicago in 2015 and in the Netherlands past year. "When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg", Shange continued. That's where the scene of a horrific incident involving South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala took place.