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Thousands raised for triathlete who was attacked with chainsaw

A crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $ 33,000 (£24,000) for the South African athlete who was attacked by a gang who tried to saw his legs off.

The fund was set up on Wednesday after news of the horrific attack on Mhlengi Gwala began to spread around the world.

He was doing triathlon training in Durban when he was pulled into bushes by attackers who used a chainsaw to cut into his legs before he escaped.

He is now “doing well” after surgery, an official told the BBC.

Dennis Jackson, director of the elite athlete programme for KwaZulu-Natal province, told the BBC’s Newsday programme they would be doing everything possible to get Mr Gwala back on his feet.

Mr Jackson said he was sure Mr Gwala – a “shining ambassador” for triathlon in South Africa – would compete again, although at what level remained to be seen.

But he added: “Don’t be surprised if in a year or two, we see him back on the world stage.”

The story sent shockwaves through South Africa and beyond, leading one South African to set up the BackaBuddy fundraising page to “get Mhlengi back on his bike”.

The money raised – which stood at 400,000 rand ($ 33,550; £24,175) as of Thursday morning – will help with medical bills and rehabilitation costs, the site says.

Mr Gwala was due to compete in the South African national championships this month and has twice represented the country in international competitions.

His money, phone and bicycle were not stolen and the motive for the attack is still unclear.

Mr Jackson paid tribute to the athlete’s determination and mental strength: “Like a lot of young kids, he had a bit of trouble growing up but he decided that he wanted to change his life and take up sport, and that’s what he did.

“So when people ask me now: ‘Is he going to overcome this?’ I say, ‘For sure. He’s got the mind, he’s got the will, he’s got the strength.'”

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BBC Sport – Athletics

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