From Tragedy to Triumph: Mhlengi Gwala to Inspire at Paris 2024 Paralympics
Photo Cred: Doctor Ngcobo | African News Agency(ANA)

Mhlengi Gwala’s journey from a brutal attack to representing South Africa at the Paris 2024 Paralympics encapsulates resilience and triumph over adversity.


South Africa (12 February 2024) – 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.

Reflecting on his journey, Mhlengi Gwala expressed his gratitude to the people of South Africa and the global community. “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,” says Mhlengi.

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. Should the campaign raise funds beyond the cost of the bike, the additional finances will be allocated towards the myriad of expenses associated with competing at the highest level, including travel, accommodation, intensive training camps, nutrition, and professional coaching.

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.

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. It highlights how collective encouragement and support can propel individuals to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Sources: Backabuddy | Paris 2024 Paralympic Games 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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