Jessica Cox : Different and Determined

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Javier Morales

Jessica Cox was born without arms but not without ambition.

With all that she does – more than what most people do with arms # – she does not think of herself as disabled.

The inspirational Jessica Cox prepares to ride her three-wheel recumbent bicycle.

The inspirational Jessica Cox prepares to ride her three-wheel recumbent bicycle.

“No,” she said, “I actually think of myself as different.”

Other than being born without arms from birth, she is different than others because of the challenges she has overcome through her relentless drive. No challenge is too steep.

Cox added riding 40 miles in the Special Olympics 32nd El Tour de Tucson presented by Casino Del Sol Resort on a recumbent bicycle in November to a list of achievements that includes earning a pilot’s license, driving a car without modifications, playing the piano and becoming a black belt in taekwondo.

What can she not do?

She does all of these activities and daily routines including applying contact lenses and surfing the Internet by using her feet. She has actually surfed – on water – and is a SCUBA diver.

You can find her at, which symbolizes the use of her right foot the same way others use their right hand.

“In my eyes, I never see myself as disabled,” Cox said. “I’m doing what I want to do. My drive and my passion are just a part of who I am.”

Cox’s obstacle in completing the El Tour was not the physical aspect of having to steer her recumbent bicycle with her rib cage, but her concern was the mental part of overcoming the “intimidation” of finishing the 40 miles despite not having a consistent training regimen. It was the furthest she’d ever ridden in an event.

Since deciding last January to ride in El Tour, Cox and her husband, Patrick Chamberlain, tried to adequately prepare for the event. Her international motivational speaking tour cut into the training, however.

“Initially, it was very intimidating,” said Cox, 31, and from Sierra Vista. “We were gone two weeks at a time (because of) our business internationally. We tried to build our stamina by riding longer and longer, but there was no consistency because of the traveling.

“I had a couple of doubts going all the way up to the weekend (of El Tour). But I said, ‘We’re going to do it. We’re going after it.’ And we did it. It was an incredible feeling crossing that finish line.”

Cox’s motivation to finish after she set out on the course was fueled not only by her resolve, but also by those she met during the 40-mile ride.

The support she received by other riders and spectators was reciprocal.

“It was so encouraging to see so many people riding and supporting each other,” said Cox. “I’ve lived in Tucson for 17 years. I felt a sense of community pride at its finest.

“In the same way people were out there supporting me, I was motivating them. Seeing somebody who does not have arms encouraged them also. When we stopped at a light close to the end of the race I was told that I inspired them to finish the race. It was an incredible experience.”

And she’s had some great experiences, including completing El Tour.

She met Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 after setting the Guinness Book of World Record for becoming the only pilot to fly with her feet. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree from the University of Arizona. She has traveled the world – 20 countries – to conduct her motivational speeches and participate in humanitarian ventures in countries such as Ethiopia and The Philippines.

Her story will soon be a documentary. “Right Footed, A Documentary Film about Jessica Cox” is directed by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Nick Spark, who also attended UA as an undergraduate.

The 90-minute documentary, featuring Cox’s numerous accomplishments and motivational value without her arms, is three years in the making and in the final stages and set for release next year. The film is sponsored by the non-profit organization Independent Documentary Association.

“The documentary is very important to me and the message of hope and determination that I want to share is equally important,” she said. “It’s a message that is very important. We have worked so hard putting it together over the last three years. We will see it through.”

Nobody can doubt that.

Her experience of completing

El Tour, after never going farther than 26 miles on a bicycle, is indicative of her drive to live life to the fullest.

“Having the El Tour (under) my belt, I can now use it as a platform to offer more inspiration to others,” Cox said. “It provides me the information to give more stories about what can happen if you don’t give up and chase your goals no matter the circumstance.”

Posted in Tailwinds