A friend and training partner of South African triathlete competitor Mhlengi Gwala, speculates jealousy after three men attempted to cut off Gwala's legs without robbing him.
Sandile Shange, a close personal friend of Gwala's, described what he saw when he met with his 26-year-old friend after the incident.
"It was so intense to see what we saw. They had cut through his flesh, but could not cut through completely because they could not get through his bone."
Shange detailed Gwala's description of the incident on Wednesday as Gwala went into a five-hour surgery to have his leg saved.
"This is very emotional to talk about and we are all confused with the way it happened," he said.
Shange said that Gwala was on an early morning bicycle ride when he was confronted by the assailants.
"He was near the university (UKZN) when he was attacked. When he was crossing a nearby robot, climbing a hill, they just walked toward him."
'They manually started cutting'
Shange said Gwala was taken aback as he was cycling at 03:15.
"They grabbed his bike and grabbed him. He asked what they wanted, but they did not immediately answer."
Shange added that his friend had then tried to give them his valuables.
"He just wanted it to stop. He handed over his iPhone and they looked at it and just threw it back at him. They even saw his watch and did not show interest."
This was when the situation took a turn for the worse, Shange said.
"When he told me, it was so scary. He said they grabbed him and took him to a nearby bush. They were not speaking isiZulu. They were speaking something else. Mhlengi thinks they may have been Nigerian."
Shange said the men then started cutting his leg.
"The chainsaw was not sharp and they couldn't get it started. So they manually started cutting. Two of them held him down while the other started on his leg. They kept cutting until they got to the bone and they could not cut more.
"They wanted to start on the other leg but they were interrupted."
Shange said a security guard interrupted the men, who fled.
"He came down the hill with a flashlight and thereafter they ran away. The man then took him to the hospital. Who would do this?"
Speculations of 'jealousy'
According to Shange, Gwala's family had speculated "jealousy" in the attack.
"It is hard to say at this stage, but the truth is, it seems very strange."
Shange described his friend as a good person, who was always willing to help others.
"He helps the community with bringing up young kids. He is a lifeguard. He is a good person. He has an upcoming international competition and we feel it could be someone who does not want him to do well."
He wondered why the attackers did not take any of Gwala's belongings.
"Why would these men not take anything? Why would they not speak. To us it is very strange. Mhlengi is a good man."
Shange added that doctors indicated Gwala's leg could still be saved.
"This morning (Wednesday) they felt the blood flow was still good and he could save the leg. They are saying that his recovery will take quite a while. He probably won't be able to compete in his upcoming event."
Shange said that Gwala's mother was with him, but very concerned.
"Most of his family is from the farm in Ndwedwe. His mother is here and she is very worried. She was so shocked and very tearful.
"We just hope he will be fine. We will see after the surgery today."
Police confirmed they were investigating a case of attempted murder.