"They instead dragged him to the side of the road into nearby bushes", Mr Shange said. "When they saw it was getting stuck they started on the other leg".
A South African athlete almost had his legs sawn off when he was attacked by a group of men while training in the early hours of Tuesday morning, media reports said. His senior coach believes he was targeted because of his "athletic status". "Then they pointed a gun at me and I panicked".
The 27-year-old had to go through six hours of operation to save his right leg.
Jackson said the attackers also started sawing into Gwala's left leg before fleeing, enabling the athlete to crawl to a road and flag down a passing vehicle to take him to a hospital.
When the attackers reached bone, and were unable to continue because of the blunt blade, they fled, allowing Gwala to crawl back to the road where he was able to flag down a vehicle and be transported to hospital.
Sandile Shange, a training partner of the triathlete, told South Africa's Eye Witness News Gwala he was shaken by the attack and battling to make sense of it.
It gets even more disgusting. They were cutting one foot, he was fighting and screaming, and when they got to the bone they got stuck.More news: Gov invites Rio to form govt; dissolves 12th NLA
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The attackers only fled the scene when they were interrupted, leaving the victim bleeding and in huge need of help.
Gwala, a Chesterville resident, was cycling near the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College Campus) around 3.30am when he was stopped by three men and dragged into the bushes.
"The doctors say they will save his leg, but it will be a long road to recovery".
The appalling assault is being compared to the 1994 attack on USA figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at a Detroit ice rink following a practice session.
South Africa's deputy sports minister, Gert Oosthuizen, took to Twitter to condemn the brutality.
Triathlete Henri Schoeman, who won bronze for South Africa at the Rio Olympics in 2016, said he wishes Gwala the best on his path to recovery.