Coming up on six years since he was attacked in the early hours of March 6, 2018, in Glenwood, Durban, athlete Mhlengi Gwala is almost set to represent the green and gold at the 2024 Paris Paralympics on his bicycle.
Gwala, 32, has decided to launch another crowdfunding campaign to help buy the bicycle he needs to ride to glory in France later this year in August, Backabuddy told IOL.
Now a formidable figure in para-athletics, Gwala will compete in the Para-triathlon, which will start from a floating pontoon at the iconic Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris.
Gwala will need to complete a 750m swim in the Seine River, followed by a 20km bike and 5km run.
It is hard to imagine this, given the fact that Gwala had his leg sawed-off by criminals around six years ago, but the support he received and an astute level of determination and sportsmanship is what drove the Chesterville-born to victory just a year after his attack.
The criminals, who have never been caught, sawed into the calf of his right leg, severely damaging muscles, nerves, and bones, before attacking his left leg.
After he was attacked, a friend of Gwala’s started a Back a Buddy page for him to raise funds under the title ‘Get Mhlengi back on his bike’.
“This campaign struck a chord with people globally, raising over R764,000, vital for his medical expenses rehabilitation, and also contributing towards building a house for his mother,” Backabuddy media officer, Zane Groenewald said.
Bouncing back to the top after losing a leg seemed an easy task for the Durbanite, as he won the 2019 Shandrani African Championship, a triathlon event.
Now ready to take on Paris, Mhlengi needs to raise funds to get on a Speed Concept SLR 7, an elite level race bike.
Should the campaign raise more than the amount of the bike, Groenewald said funds would be used to fit the travel bills that come with being a professional athlete.
Mhlengi said the support he has received from the country has been his motivating factor.
“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,” Gwala said.
In 2022, the Sunday Tribune spoke to Gwala about his recovery process and about how one leg got infected after he made a full recovery.
He said he was never bitter about his attack and that it could have been at the hands of criminals or “just jealous people”.
“Sometimes I have flashbacks; I accept it will always be there in my mind, and they usually last for a minute, but it doesn't overwhelm me.
“What's the reason to be bitter when so many people have been so good to me?” he was quoted saying.