BERLIN – Donovan Tildesley of Vancouver and Valérie Grand’Maison of Montreal each broke their world records in 800-metre freestyle races on Thursday to open the German Open competition for swimmers with a disability.

Canada has fielded its 20-member Paralympic Games team for the competition. The Games are this September in Beijing.

In the men’s 800 freestyle, Tildesley clocked nine minutes and 59.42 seconds to smash his previous best of 10:19.01 in the S11 disability class for the visually impaired set in 2003.

In the combined disability points system he ranked seventh while Devin Gotell of Antigonish, N.S., ranked 10th. Anders Olsen of Sweden won the gold medal with a world record time in the S6 class.

“I was honestly surprised with my time,” said Tildesley. “But my stroke was efficient and that was something I was focusing on in our training camp here this week. It came together for me. It’s not an event I race a lot but this is a good sign I’m very fit right now.”

In the women’s 800 freestyle, Grand’Maison took the combined silver medal clocking a world record 9:34.55 in the S13 class for visually impaired. Her previous standard was 9:44.88 set in March 2007.

“I’m super happy to get the competition off to this kind of start,” said Grand’Maison, a quintuple world champion in 2006. “I hadn’t swam this event in a year but I worked on a strategy and it was very effective. I was pleased to hold my top speed for so long in the race and that’s going to give me confidence to push even harder in my other races.”

Daniela Schulte of Germany won the gold medal. Amber Thomas of Drayton Valley, Alta., was fourth Chelsey Gotell of Antigonish fifth, Andrea Cole of London, Ont., seventh, Stephanie Dixon of Victoria 10th, Darda Sales of London 12th and Katarina Roxon of Corner Brook, N.L., 16th.

Thomas held the world record for 12 minutes in the S11 class clocking 11:50.66 before Schulte beat it in the next heat with a 11:09.23 clocking.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Thomas, 14, the youngest swimmer on the Paralympic squad. “I’ve been getting stronger over training and it’s my best event.”

Kirby Cote of Winnipeg won the gold medal in the women’s 400 freestyle clocking 5:32.15 with Brittany Gray of Barrie, Ont., fourth.

Benoit Huot of Montreal took gold in the men’s 400 freestyle in 4:58.11 with Drew Christensen of New Westminster, B.C., second.

Devin Gotell, Gray, Christensen and Thomas all set Pan Am and Canadian records in their respective races.

Competition continues through to Sunday.

Full results at: