Chainsaw-wielding assailants attempted to hack off a top South African triathlete's legs while he was on a training session.
Police described the unprovoked attack on Mhlengi Gwala, 26, as a case of attempted murder.
He is recovering in hospital following the attack in the coastal city of Durban in the early hours of Tuesday.
"The complainant alleged that on March 6, 2018 at about 03:20 in the morning whilst cycling in Rick Turner Road, Umbilo, he was dragged by three unknown men into a bush," said police spokeswomen Captain Nqobile Gwala.
"One was armed with a firearm and they attempted to cut off his legs with a chainsaw. The suspects fled the scene when they noticed someone was coming and the victim was assisted by security guards in the vicinity. A case of attempted murder was opened at Umbilo police station for investigation."
Gwala competed at the 2017 International World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam in September, where he placed 45th.
Sandile Shange, a training partner of the triathlete, told South Africa’s local media that Gwala was shaken and battling to make sense of the incident.
"The doctors say they will save his leg, but it will be a long road to recovery. He will be able to walk and run again but it will take some time," Shange said.
"They took the chainsaw, which they were not using electrically, but manually. They were cutting one foot, he was fighting and screaming, and when they got to the bone they got stuck. They tried the other leg."
Shange added that Gwala was at a loss as to the motive of his attackers. "We are a little bit confused, we don't know who is behind everything."
Meanwhile, a crowdfunding initiative was set up for the athlete. On the Backabuddy site, fans and the general public were asked to donate towards Gwala's medical costs and new equipment. At first, the amount was set at a humble R50,000 (Dh15,000), but that has far exceeded the initial target, now sitting at Dh100,000.
Investigations into the attach are still ongoing.