SA triathlone athlete after handsaw attack: 'I'm good'
But he is devastated about missing the SA triathlon championship in two weeks' time
South Africans have rallied around triathlete Mhlengi Gwala in a “remarkable” manner, with a crowdsourcing initiative that started on Wednesday already raising nearly R600,000 after exceeding its targets twice.
His harrowing ordeal, in which three men tried to cut his leg off with a handsaw, has not robbed him of his fighting spirit.
Speaking briefly to TimesSelect on Thursday, Gwala – who survived the vicious 3am attack on him in Durban two days ago – said: “I’m good.”
Close friend and fellow triathlete Sandile Shange, who visited Gwala at the private hospital where he successfully underwent surgery, said he was in good spirits but was in intense pain and heavily medicated.
“He has been blown away by the support shown by fellow South Africans‚” said Shange.The 27-year-old athlete, who is also a Durban beach lifesaver, was attacked while training in the vicinity of the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.
He was dragged into a bushy area, where three men allegedly attempted to hack his leg with a saw.
His attackers managed to cut through most of Gwala’s muscle, nerves and arteries to the bone.
Shange, who met Gwala while the youngster was trying to kick a drug addiction about eight years ago, said his friend was devastated about missing the South African triathlon championship in two weeks.
Gwala was training for the event when he was attacked.
“He is slowly recovering. It has been a very traumatic time for him, but he will get there.
“I think right now he is just dealing with the pain, which comes every now and then, especially after the theatre.
“The doctors have saved his leg. He will be able to walk and run again but in the long run.“He is going crazy that he can’t compete, but I will do the race for him,” said Shange.
The attack has prompted an outpouring of support – including financial, through an international crowd-funding initiative.
Hundreds of donors raised almost R500,000 within 24 hours for Gwala.Gauteng businessman Joaquim Valverde, who runs an international fitness and training programme for athletes, swimmers and triathletes, started the crowdfunding initiative on Wednesday with a target of R100,000 to assist with medical costs and rehabilitation.
But by Thursday that figure was twice exceeded and stood at over R450,000. The target was then raised to R750,000.
Valverde said they started the fundraising initiative for Gwala as he is one of their athletes in the programme and they sponsor him.
“I have met him personally and I know what a good athelete he is and his potential. We decided to support him because he is one of ours and what has happened to him is just tragic.“The triathalon community is relatively small so we tried to get it onto every platform. The response has been nothing short of remarkable.”
With donations from as little as R10.28 to more than R8,000 from a single donor, people have opened their hearts and pockets, offering their support and well wishes from Dubai to the Netherlands, the United States to Australia.
Thousands of donors sent their messages of support in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, quoting scripture and inspirational messages to encourage the athlete to recover quickly.
Valverde said the money will remain with Back a Buddy, the administrators of the fund, until Gwala nominates someone to oversee the finances.
“He will need money to help him with his medical expenses, rehabilitation, living costs while he can’t work and training to get him back on track. He needs to find someone whom he can trust and of course there won’t be one lump-sum payment to ensure that the money goes towards helping him.”
“Raise hell out there” was the instruction from Rob from the US when he donated more than R10,000 to the campaign.