In a weird attack reminiscent of the Oscar-winning film "I, Tonya" and the "Saw" series, triathlete Mhlengi Gwala almost had his legs severed by three men wielding a handsaw while training on his bike.
But instead of taking his items, the men reportedly dragged him to a private area where they tried to saw off his legs.
Gwala was taken to a hospital when found on the side of the road by a security company. The three attackers sawed into Gwala's right calf and damaged muscle, nerves and bone, Jackson said. "When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg", Shange continued.
Jackson said the attackers also started sawing his left leg before stopping and fleeing.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the attack had not yet been reported and so could not comment further on the incident.
The grisly attack has alarmed athletes in Durban who routinely get up in the early morning darkness to train when few people are on the roads, and there was no immediate explanation for why Gwala was targeted.
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"I have never heard of any enemies that he may have", he said. "We all stand behind you and support you as we need to make cycling safer on the roads in South Africa!".
Gwala, who is seen as a very promising athlete, will be undergoing leg surgery.
A crowdfunding initiative was announced on the Ironman South Africa Facebook page‚ as the organisation expressed its sadness at the attack on the triathlete‚ while sending him "best wishes and a speedy recovery".
He had been planning to compete in the South African national championship in two weeks.
Reportedly, doctors say Gwala will be able to walk again.
Fellow South African triathlete Henri Schoeman, who claimed bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, called the attack "disgusting" on Twitter.