In the early hours of March 6, 2018, Mhlengi Gwala, then in his late twenties and a rising star in international triathlon from South Africa, endured an attack that would irrevocably alter his life.
During a training session in Durban, he was viciously assaulted by assailants who pulled him from his bike and brutally injured him, sawing into the calf of his right leg, severely damaging muscles, nerves, and bones, before attacking his left leg. Yet, this harrowing incident did not break Gwala’s spirit; rather, it paved the way for a new chapter in his life as a para-athlete.
Born and raised in the Chesterville township of Durban, Gwala, now 32, faced a monumental transformation following the assault. As he was undergoing surgery, a friend initiated a BackaBuddy crowdfunding campaign aptly titled “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.
Fast forward to 2024, and Gwala has emerged as a formidable figure in para-athletics. Taking control of his fate, he launched a new BackaBuddy campaign to support his journey to The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, where he will compete alongside 4,400 athletes from a record number of National Paralympic Committees.
Gwala is set to participate in the challenging Para triathlon, which will start from a floating pontoon at the iconic Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris. This picturesque course will lead him past notable landmarks, including a 750m swim in the Seine, followed by a 20km bike and 5km run through areas near landmarks such as Le Grand Palais and l’Assemblée nationale.
Gwala’s relentless resilience has led to remarkable achievements in his sporting career. He has been crowned a 3x African champion and has achieved significant placements in various international competitions, including:
– **1st Place:** 2019 Shandrani African Championship
– **2nd Place:** Portugal World Para Cup
– **1st Place:** 2021 RSA Championship
– **12th Place:** 2021 World Championships in Abu Dhabi
– **1st Place:** 2022 RSA Championship
– **7th Place:** 2022 World Para Cup in Coruna
– **1st Place:** 2023 African Championship in Hurghada
As Mhlengi prepares for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, scheduled for August 28 to September 8, his profound dedication to his sport is reflected in his rigorous training routine. Embracing the disciplines of running, swimming, and cycling, Gwala is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for Paralympic glory.
To support this journey, he has initiated a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy to purchase a Speed Concept SLR 7 bike, which costs about R195,000.
The Speed Concept SLR 7 is more than just a bike; it’s an aerodynamic carbon triathlon bike engineered for incredible speed and seamless integration. Every aspect of this bike, from the lightweight aero frame and ride-smoothing IsoSpeed to its cutting-edge fuel and hydration system, is designed for peak performance.
The outpouring of global support that Gwala has received throughout his journey is a vivid illustration of the impact of community in triumphing over adversity.
“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.”
This solidarity has not only bolstered his athletic endeavors but also serves as a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It highlights how collective encouragement and support can propel individuals to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Gwala’s remarkable transition from the victim of a vicious assault to a hopeful for the Paralympics and a celebrated para-athlete transcends the realm of personal achievement.
Support Mhlengi’s campaign on BackaBuddy:
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South Africa’s leading crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy has supported more than 10 000+ individuals and charities in setting up fundraising campaigns for medical fees, tuition and various causes in South Africa. The platform has thus far risen over R490 Million.