South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala in hospital after attack with saw

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The young athlete from Ndwedwe, KwaZulu-Natal, has a promising sporting career and has already competed in two global triathlons.

Generous South Africans are starting to dig into their own pockets to help promising triathlon competitor Mhlengi Gwala pay for the medical treatment he requires after a gruesome attack by chainsaw wielding criminals.

Dennis Jackson, director of the elite athlete program for KwaZulu-Natal, told The Guardian that the alleged attackers missed a main artery and surgeons are confident they can save the leg.

The BBC reports that Gwala thought the three men were trying to rob him so he offered the attackers his wallet, phone, watch and bicycle. Doctors believe they can save the leg that took the brunt of the punishment, AP reported.

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

When they got to the bone and couldn't cut anymore, they started in on his left leg. His left leg was also cut as the assailants began sawing into it before fleeing.

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Gwala was taken to a hospital when found on the side of the road by a security company.

Triathlete Henry Schoemen, who won bronze for South Africa at the Rio Olympics in 2016, called the attack on Gwala "disgusting".

Gwala was reportedly riding his bike in Durban when the attack occurred.

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

South Africa's deputy sports minister, Gert Oosthuizen, described the attack on the "star athlete" as "totally unacceptable" and said police are investigating. We don't know yet how far they went in.