'I forgive them,' says triathlete attacked with saw – and now he wants a Paralympic gold
"I have forgiven them - but I will never forget.”
These were the words of South African triathlete Mhlengi Gwala, who was attacked by handsaw-wielding criminals while training in Cato Manor, Durban, in March.
The 27-year-old athlete from Chesterville was hauled into a bushy area near the University of KwaZulu-Natal‚ where three men allegedly attempted to hack off his leg with a handsaw.
The injury effectively put paid to a potentially promising career as an able-bodied athlete.
Speaking to TimesLIVE on Monday, Gwala said he forgave his attackers in the “early days” following his ordeal.
“If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be here today. Forgiving them was one of the things that helped me so much," said Gwala.
He was speaking on the fringes of the annual Ride for Mr Price Foundation during a stop in Botha's Hill, west of Durban. This was his first cycling appearance after making a miraculous recovery.
Gwala was one of 70 cyclists who took part in the two-day, 606km ride from Johannesburg to Durban, which seeks to raise funds and awareness for youth empowerment programmes.
"These two days [of cycling] have been very difficult for me, especially yesterday," said an exhausted Gwala. "I am very happy that I am back on the road and I am doing well."
After his vicious attack, the father of two received overwhelming support on social media, where over R400,000 was raised on crowdfunding site BackaBuddy to pay for his medical bills. Gwala said that it was this support that inspired him to not give up.
"The people of South Africa and across the world are the ones who have kept me going. Their support and well-wishes - and my children - are what kept me going,” he said.
Since the incident, which left him with a limp, Gwala has been classified as a para-cyclist. Now, instead of letting his injury hold him back, he has set his sights on a Paralympic gold medal.