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. They then started on the other one.
The lack of a robbery motive is seen by his friend as a deliberate attack to cripple him before the national championships in 10 days time at Bloemfontein, South Africa. "They dragged him to the side of the road to some bushes, took a saw and started cutting his legs".
"The doctors say they will save his leg, but it will be a long road to recovery".
"The victim was approached by three suspects who dragged him into the bush and they tried to cut his legs and he was severely injured before going to hospital". After the attackers fled, Gwala crawled to a road and flagged down a passing auto to take him to a hospital, Jackson said to the newspaper.
"I have never heard of any enemies that he may have", Jackson said, according to The Guardian. "He dragged himself out of the bush onto the road and a private security auto picked him up and took him to the nearest hospital", said Dennis Jackson‚ director of the Elite Athlete Development program that Gwala is a part of, via Times Live.
Fellow triathlete and Olympic silver medalist Henri Schoeman tweeted about the attack on Tuesday evening.
"All we know is that Mhlengi is alive and he is talking and he is under medical care". "We don't have the whole story yet".
With a promising sporting career, Gwala had already competed in two global triathlons. He became an athlete after overcoming drug and alcohol addictions, Jackson said.
Gwala is a strong contender for the race which is a 40k cycle, 10k run and 1.7k swim.