Assailants in South Africa attacked a top national triathlete who was cycling to a training session and cut into his legs with a blunt saw, causing severe injuries. Mhlengi Gwala, 27, was undergoing surgery after the attack which occurred before dawn on Tuesday in the coastal city of Durban, said Dennis Jackson, director of the elite athlete program for KwaZulu-Natal province. Several attackers pulled Gwala off his bicycle as he cycled up a steep hill and sawed into his right calf, damaging muscle, nerves, and bone, according to Jackson, who spoke by phone to the triathlete about the ordeal. They missed a main artery and surgeons are confident they can save the leg, Jackson said. South Africa's deputy sports minister described the attack on the "star athlete" as "totally unacceptable" and said police are investigating.
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 car to take him to a hospital, reports the AP. The grisly attack has alarmed athletes in Durban who routinely get up in the early morning darkness to train when few people are on the roads, and there was no immediate explanation for why Gwala was targeted. The athlete had offered his cell phone, wallet, and bicycle to the assailants, who still went for his legs and were speaking in a language that Gwala could not understand, Jackson said. "I have never heard of any enemies that he may have," he said. "He is a wonderful ambassador for the sport."
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