"He thought they were coming to rob him, stopped and gave them his phone but they didn't want his phone, didn't want his watch or bicycle", Shange told the BBC, saying that the incident happened during a training ride early Tuesday in Durban, in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province.
A South African triathlete was ambushed by people who did not want any valuable items, but instead pulled him into the bushes and tried to remove his legs.
Dennis Jackson‚ director of the SA Elite Athlete Development programme - which Gwala is a part of - said the motive for the attack remained a mystery.
Gwala overcame drug and alcohol addictions and went on to represent South Africa at global competitions in Chicago in 2015 and in the Netherlands a year ago, Jackson said.
"The chainsaw wasn't that sharp and they couldn't get it started". He said the saw missed a main artery and that surgeons are confident they can save the leg. "We also need to make a stand so that we can cycle safely her in South Africa because we all know it is very unsafe (for cyclists) at the moment", said Schoeman.
"A case of attempted murder was opened at Umbilo police station for investigation". His training partner, Sandile Shange, says medical staff have told Mhlengi he will be able to run again.
Gwala, who is seen as a very promising athlete, will be undergoing leg surgery.
The athlete said he offered the attackers his cellphone, wallet and bike - but they still went straight for his legs and spoke a language he couldn't understand.
"We don't yet know how far they went in‚ whether they were trying to cut it off‚ or what the circumstances are".